Nyeah, a couple of old cowboys are going to take down Bonnie and Clyde, see?
BQB here with a review of Netflix’s The Highwaymen.
It’s the 1930s and murderous boyfriend/girlfriend duo Bonnie and Clyde are tearing through the country and Texas in particular, machine gunning their way to fame and fortune one bank at a time.
You’d think people would be disgusted by that sort of thing but remember, it was the Great Depression, and many an American had been ousted out of their home by the banks. Ergo, Bonnie and Clyde were cheered on as celebrities, a new version of Robin Hood, though they didn’t give their dough away to the masses and they gunned down a multitude of lawmen, often in instances it wasn’t necessary for escape but they just thought it seemed like a fun thing to do.
Enter Frank Hamer and Maney Gault (Kevin Costner and Woody Harrelson, respectively), a couple of old cowboys in a world that doesn’t want them anymore. In their younger days, they rode the open range on horseback as Texas Rangers, roaming all over the American territories, jurisdiction be damned, just to get their man.
Both are old men living quiet lives but wracked with guilt over the blood they spilled in the name of justice. Frank married a rich younger woman and works as a security consultant for an oil company. Maney didn’t luck out as well. He lives on the couch in his grown daughter’s house. Depression has got the best of him and he feels like a burden.
With the introduction of cars and interstate travel, America has entered into a sort of Wild West Part II phase. Cowboys like Hamer and Gault may have tamed the West, but now, with multiple jurisdictions, state lines, and highways that can take a driver anywhere, the powers that be are clueless how to stop a two-person murder crew. Even worse, they can’t or won’t share information with each other. Add in the FBI with modern tech (for that day) and you’ve got a lot of people investigating but not communicating.
Miriam “Ma” Ferguson, the governor of Texas at the time (Kathy Bates) begrudgingly allows Hamer and Gault to be reinstated, even though the Texas Rangers are considered an old relic of a long forgotten past. Hamer and Gault are old, achy, sore, in rough shape and Gault needs to stop every five minutes to take a leak but they are experts on one thing that the younger breed of lawman isn’t, namely – tracking. Find a clue, follow it to another clue, then follow that to another one…and follow it across state lines if need be. After all, no one claimed a jurisdictional beef on their horseback days, but now, they’ll have to sneak around the backs of the Feds, Sheriffs, police chiefs, etc. as they move state by state, keeping their investigation to themselves as Bonnie and Clyde have been known to buy the loyalty of many a corrupt official.
Bonnie and Clyde themselves are seen very little, and that’s likely by design. Although the two with their tommy guns are iconic, there have been movies before where the duo are romanticized as free love birds sticking it to the man. This one is more on the nose, that they’re just two assholes who don’t want to work and are having fun and don’t value human life enough to not gun down whoever crosses them. Thus, to give them big scenes where they’re tearing up scenery with their gats would probably be to give them more attention than they deserve.
Accordingly, this one’s on the duo who caught them, and perhaps even an ode to the old folks who are struggling to keep up with a changing world yet are still needed because they remember how to do things that aren’t done anymore – which sounds useless until you need that thing done.