The Highwaymen is a Netflix original movie starring Kevin Costner and Woody Harrelson. It shouldn’t come as much of a surprise that this is a well put together movie with some great acting.
Frank Hamer (Kevin Costner) and Maney Gault (Woody Harrelson) work a multi-state investigation. Their goal is to bring in Bonnie and Clyde; dead or alive. For the uninitiated, Bonnie and Clyde ran from the law robbing banks in, what felt at the time, to be a never ending chase. In the midst of The Great Depression the country heralded two young lovers as modern day robin hoods. These same people glossed over the fact that the pair never helped anyone. They are also stone cold killers. Gunning down police wherever they went in their two year crime spree.
Hamer takes the role of lead investigator. He puts aside the newer technologies of police work and trusts his instinct. When the case shows itself to be too big for one man Hamer seeks out an old colleague. Hamer and Gault have a rocky history. Details are peppered throughout their relationship. It’s a point of contention the two men need to get over to do the job.
The story of Bonnie and Clyde has been told and retold many times. They bucked the system when Americans were at their lowest and were put up on a pedestal by the common man. 1967’s Bonnie and Clyde starring Warren Beatty and Faye Dunaway is still the quintessential version. 2013’s mini series by the name with Emile Hirsch and Holliday Grainger was also a noble effort.
It’s astonishing this story was never done justice. While The Highwaymen isn’t the classic that Beatty’s version is, it’s a compelling look at the other side of the coin. Focusing on the actual heroes of the story shouldn’t have felt like a novel approach, but it is. The Highwaymen also seems to stick closer to facts than other tellings. Bonnie and Clyde are only mentioned, hinted at, and glimpsed, up until the climax. When the big moment of the movie hits it’s like we are seeing these infamous characters for the first time.
The Highwaymen is a Netflix original.
If you’ve been following my writing you know that I’m a sucker for strong characters. The Highwaymen gives us a couple powerhouses in that regard. It’s easy to have a laugh at Costner’s expense given some of the entries on his resume. A movie like this one reminds you why he is still such a powerful name in the movie world. Woody Harrelson has been around forever and seems to be more popular now than he ever has been. His Gault takes something of a back seat to Costner’s Hamer. The two get to butt heads and make amends throughout the story. It’s always electric when they get to dive deep together.
Speaking of deep dives. There is a poignant scene that elevates this entire movie beyond a cops and robbers story. Hamer sits down with Clyde’s father William Sadler. At first their interaction is snappy and feels like they don’t have much to say to each other. Hamer drops his fists and levels with the man. The conversation that ensues is the single most powerful scene in the movie. This scene alone is worth looking up if, for some reason, you still don’t want to watch the movie.
The Highwaymen is a quality movie with outstanding acting and direction. Director John Lee Hancock recreated the climax of the story perfectly. When he inserts the real world documentation of the events you’re haunted by what you’ve seen.