This 2019 American crime drama is directed by John Lee Hancock and stars Kevin Costner, Woody Harrelson, Kathy Bates, John Carroll Lynch, Kim Dickens, Thomas Mann and William Sadler.
1934. Texas. Notorious murderers and thieves Clyde Barrow (Edward Bossert) and Bonnie Parker (Emily Brobst) continue to wreak havoc across the state and evade, yet continue to gather public support of their “Robin Hood” story.
Governor Miriam Ferguson (Bates) knows she will have to operate outside of the FBI’s investigations by reinstating the Texas Rangers; veterans Frank Hamer (Costner) and his former partner Maney Gault (Harrelson) are tasked to hunt down Bonnie and Clyde.
As the body count stacks up and a dangerous cat and mouse game begins across the state, Hamer and Gault will need to sharpen their minds, avoid corrupt officials and think one step ahead of the love birds if they are to ever going be stopped…
The classic 1967 Arthur Penn ‘Bonnie And Clyde’ crime/romance semi-biopic was marketed as “They’re young…they’re in love,” to audiences and offered a fresh look at these young criminals, one of the first true American “public enemies” of the 1930s. This 2019 Netflix original is simply marketed as “The legends who took down Bonnie and Clyde.” One story but now shown from the other side of the narrative, this time of the lawmen that brought the love-birds down.
Netflix are proving they are more than capable of delivering quality films with a top-notch cast and crew, and while this offering doesn’t give us anything new on the “gangster” genre or push those involved out of their comfort zone in adding a new spin on a legendary story, it is still a solid crime drama. It’s all held together by a strong leading duo and authentic set design, costumes and subject matter that doesn’t pull punches or take too much artistic licence.
Director John Lee Hancock of former ‘The Alamo’, ‘Saving Mr Banks’ and ‘The Founder’ fame has an eye for history and authenticity in the details. This keen eye coupled with veteran acting heavies Kevin Costner and Woody Harrelson totally sells the period we are in; 1930s America and the Great Depression. There’s little to sugarcoat over here; rundown campsites housing those who can’t afford to live really show the extent of why Bonnie and Clyde were often seen as heroes. They were seen as a living embodiment of Robin Hood in robbing from banks and businesses whilst not afraid to use violence to make their point. A product of the time that makes for engrossing study.
But this isn’t their story. It’s about the ones out to catch them. The Highwaymen. Costner (64) and Harrelson (57) play to age which is always a treat. They have to stop stakeouts to empty their bladder, they struggle to get a good shot when using their pistols, and they find it hard to chase on foot. But with age doesn’t always come imperfection; they are veteran Texas Rangers. They know how to drive cars in hot pursuit, how to confront law officials both below and above them, and they know the criminal mind. They both bear scars, physically and mentally, and have personal struggles, but Hancock doesn’t spend too long giving them an extensive back-story of pain and redemption. He just lets each Ranger inject his spin on the investigation when he needs to in order to prove they’re not out of the law game just yet.
It’s a slow burning, safe, cat-and-mouse drama. With just one car chase and a brief opening jailbreak, the action is few and far between and has enough of the brutal violence to hit home without being gratuitous, but then this isn’t an action film. It’s not ‘Gangster Squad’. It’s a story of the real-life investigations and obstacles crossed that show how Bonnie and Clyde were taken down by clear policing and procedure and not shoot-out after shoot-out and state or statewide car chases and over-long dramatic monologues. In fact, Bonnie and Clyde are near faceless throughout; they are out there, but we are following the Rangers only and see as much as they see.
Without spoiling the outcome for those not aware of the fate that awaits, the journey taken and those involved along the way, including Barrow’s father Henry – William Sadler – and childhood friend Sheriff Ted Hinton – Thomas Mann – makes for a powerful outcome with some fascinating postscripts to book end it out.
Directed by: John Lee Hancock
Cast: Kevin Costner, Woody Harrelson, Kathy Bates, John Carroll Lynch, Kim Dickens, Thomas Mann and William Sadler