In the state of Texas during the year 1934, former Texas Rangers Frank Hamer (Kevin Costner) and Benjamin Maney Gault (Woody Harrelson) are hired by the Texas Government to take part in one of the biggest manhunts in American history. And their quarry turns out to be none other than the infamous and elusive criminal couple, Bonnie and Clyde. The film also features Kathy Bates and John Carroll Lynch.
“The Highwaymen” is based on the untold true story about the detectives responsible for locating and eliminating Clyde Barrow and Bonnie Parker, two of the most notorious criminals in America. The movie is a Netflix original directed by John Lee Hancock, a man who possesses quite the resume of True Story Films. He’s written/directed such movies like “The Rookie,” “The Alamo,” “The Blind Side,” “Saving Mr. Banks,” and even “The Founder.”
It’s hard to talk about the film without delving a bit into the history of Bonnie and Clyde. Most people born in the states has heard of the two in some manner. Despite their criminal actions, however, the public opinion of them tends to be mixed. Some see them as nothing more than felons, while others have a more glamorized and even romantic outlook, to the point where they made the two out to be like celebrities. It wasn’t just the public, even Hollywood couldn’t resist showing the duo’s journey on the big screen in movies like the classic 1967 “Bonnie and Clyde” starring Warren Beatty and Faye Dunaway. Now, I’m not here to take sides or deconstruct the actual couple, but at the end of the day, they still committed numerous crimes from robbery to murder, and the film we’re looking at is not out to glamorize them.
“The Highwaymen” is one of the first theatrical Bonnie and Clyde films to show the other side of the tale, on the ones who stopped them. It only focuses on our two detectives Hamer and Gault as they use their wits and tracking capabilities to locate the criminal couple, until the climactic shootout leading to their deaths. In fact, although Bonnie and Clyde are the central plot of the film, they’re never given the spotlight. While we’re shown brief scenes of them—of their crimes and escape from authorities—the film never stops to give them a starring role. The film makes that clear; Frank Hamer and Maney Gault are our main characters and Bonnie and Clyde are the criminals they’re chasing.
The acting in the film receives an A+ from me. Kevin Costner and Woody Harrelson both perform wonderfully in their roles and work well off each other. In fact, the actors who held minor roles in the story all deserve commendation for their efforts. Whether it’s a starring role or a minor role, everyone just disappears into their parts. Even the sets and props in the film are all done great and used perfectly in setting the scene for the time period “The Highwaymen” takes place. However, if I must play Devil’s Advocate and critique one thing about the film, it would be its pacing. The only flaw I have with the movie is it can be a bit slow at times. Never to the point where it became irritating, but enough where I began to think how some scenes could’ve been reworked differently.
“The Highwaymen” is rated R for some strong violence and bloody images. If you’re someone who loves a theatrical retelling of historical stories, or if you’re just looking for a good crime drama, I would suggest giving this one a watch. Despite my earlier critique, if you can ignore the small issue regarding the pacing, you’ll still enjoy it, because the final score for “The Highwaymen” is an 8 out of 10.