Hell or High Water (film)

  (Redirected from Hell or High Water (2016 film))

Hell or High Water is a 2016 American neo-Western heist film directed by David Mackenzie and written by Taylor Sheridan. The film follows two brothers (Chris Pine and Ben Foster) who carry out a series of bank robberies to save their family ranch, while being pursued by two Texas Rangers (Jeff Bridges and Gil Birmingham).

Hell or High Water
The top of the poster is filled with frogs wearing cowboy hats. Beneath two men walk across a harsh landscape hauling two large black duffel bags.
Theatrical release poster
Directed byDavid Mackenzie
Produced by
Written byTaylor Sheridan
Music by
CinematographyGiles Nuttgens
Edited byJake Roberts
Distributed byLionsgate
CBS Films
Release date
  • May 16, 2016 (2016-05-16) (Cannes)
  • August 12, 2016 (2016-08-12) (United States)
Running time
102 minutes[1]
CountryUnited States
Budget$12 million[2]
Box office$37.9 million[2]

The film premiered at the Un Certain Regard section of the 2016 Cannes Film Festival on May 16, 2016, and was theatrically released in the United States on August 12, 2016, to critical acclaim, particularly for Bridges' performance, the screenplay, and the editing. It also grossed $37 million.[3] The American Film Institute selected it as one of its ten Movies of the Year,[4] and it was nominated for numerous awards, including four Oscar nominations at the 89th Academy Awards: Best Picture, Best Supporting Actor (Bridges), Best Original Screenplay and Best Film Editing.[5] It also received Golden Globe nominations for Best Picture, Best Supporting Actor for Bridges and Best Screenplay.[6]


In West Texas, divorced father Toby Howard (Chris Pine) and his ex-con older brother Tanner (Ben Foster) carry out early morning robberies of two branches of the Texas Midlands Bank. Though the robberies are well-planned, Tanner's wild nature leads him to take unnecessary risks, frustrating Toby. Back on the family ranch, they bury their getaway car in a pit with an excavator. The brothers' mother has died after a long illness, leaving their ranch in debt because of a reverse mortgage provided by the Texas Midlands Bank. If the debt is not paid off in a few days, the ranch will be foreclosed. Oil has been discovered on their land, and Toby is determined to ensure a comfortable life for his estranged sons. They rob Texas Midlands as a form of frontier justice.

Two Texas Rangers, Marcus Hamilton (Jeff Bridges) and Alberto Parker (Gil Birmingham), are on the case. Hamilton, who is close to retirement, investigates the robberies and quickly determines the brothers' methods and personalities. Meanwhile, Tanner robs another bank while Toby unknowingly waits at a nearby diner, conversing with a waitress. They take the stolen money to an Indian casino in Oklahoma to be laundered. Toby has the casino convert their gambling winnings into a check made out to the Texas Midlands Bank. With untraceable funds and gambling as a cover for how they were acquired, the brothers head back to Texas.

Hamilton stakes out another branch of the Texas Midlands Bank, to no avail. During that time, Hamilton playfully makes fun of his partner’s half-Mexican and half-Indian heritage; Parker retorts with jokes about Hamilton's age. Hamilton figures a pattern to the bank robberies and determines the next target. Hamilton and Parker are en route to the bank when the final robbery occurs. Pressed for time, the brothers proceed with the heist though the bank is crowded. A shoot-out ensues when a security guard and an armed civilian fire at the brothers and Tanner kills both. Toby is shot in the abdomen as they are ambushed by a waiting posse of armed townspeople outside the bank.

The brothers race out of town with the local posse in pursuit. After gaining some distance, Tanner stops and fires an automatic rifle, forcing the posse to retreat. The brothers split; Toby takes the money using another vehicle, while Tanner creates a diversion. He draws the lawmen off the trail to a desert mountain ridge where he takes potshots at the police with a hunting rifle, killing Parker. Distraught, Hamilton uses a local resident and posse member's knowledge of the area to circle behind Tanner. He gets into a shooting position behind Tanner, and kills him.

During the standoff, Toby conceals his wound, passes through a police checkpoint without incident, and launders the stolen cash at the casino, where he sees the news report of his brother's death. He takes the casino's check to the bank just in time to avoid the ranch's foreclosure and deeds the ranch into a family trust.

After retirement, Hamilton visits his former office to learn that the Rangers have cleared Toby as a suspect, as his record is clean and he has no motive to steal since the new oil wells earn more in a month than the total stolen in all of the robberies together. The money from the ranch's oil wells is deposited at the Texas Midlands Bank, which refuses to co-operate with the investigation for fear of losing management of the family's trust fund.

Hamilton visits Toby's ranch. Although they stay civil, Hamilton states that he knows Toby masterminded and took part in the robberies, but wishes to know the reason. Toby says he has resolved not to let poverty affect his sons like it affected him and Tanner. Hamilton tells Toby he holds him responsible for the death of his partner, and just as a Mexican standoff starts to occur, they are interrupted when Toby's ex-wife and children arrive. The ranch belongs to the trust and thus to them; Toby is only there to visit and fix up the house. As Hamilton departs, Toby suggests they meet again soon to "finish the conversation" and "bring you some peace". Hamilton says he would like to meet again and maybe he will "bring some peace" to Toby. Hamilton leaves, without giving Toby any absolution.[7]



On April 18, 2012, Deadline reported that Sidney Kimmel Entertainment had acquired the heist film Comancheria, scripted by Taylor Sheridan, which SKE would finance and produce with Peter Berg of Film 44.[8] It is the second installment of Sheridan's trilogy of "the modern-day American frontier".[9] At Cinemacon 2016 in Las Vegas, a standee was presented for the film, revealing that the title had been changed to Hell or High Water.[10] Berg was potentially attached to direct the film. Endgame Entertainment and Focus Features were also among the studios bidding for the project against SKE.[8] The script won the best Black List script in 2012.[11] On April 2, 2015, it was announced that Jeff Bridges was set to star, while Chris Pine and Ben Foster were also in talks to join, and David Mackenzie was set to direct the film.[12] On May 4, 2015, Pine and Foster were confirmed to play brothers in the film, who commit bank robberies to save their family's farm in West Texas, while Bridges would play a Texas Ranger set to catch the brothers.[13] CBS Films acquired the US rights to the film, which was produced by Sidney Kimmel of Sidney Kimmel Entertainment, Peter Berg of Film 44, Carla Hacken of SKE, and Julie Yorn of LBI, with Gigi Pritzker, Bill Lischak, Michael Nathanson, Rachel Shane, John Penotti, Bruce Toll and Braden Aftergood as executive producers.[14][13] Sidney Kimmel Entertainment developed the project with Film 44, and OddLot Entertainment co-produced and co-finance the film along with SKE.[15]


Scenes were shot in Alamogordo Valley, Eastern New Mexico.

Although the film's plot takes place in West Texas, filming took place in Eastern New Mexico. Principal photography on the film began on May 26, 2015, in Clovis, New Mexico.[16][14] Filming also took place in other New Mexico communities such as Portales and Tucumcari.[17][18][19] Some rural scenes were filmed in the vast and sparsely populated ranch country of Quay and Guadalupe counties of New Mexico, including scenic shots of Alamogordo Valley south of Luciano Mesa. Filming wrapped on July 8, 2015.[20]


The film premiered at the 69th annual Cannes Film Festival on May 16, 2016. It began a limited release on August 12, 2016, in the United States, followed by an expansion on August 19, and a wide release on August 26. The film opened in the UK and Ireland on September 9, 2016, and opened in New Zealand on October 21, 2016.


Box officeEdit

Hell or High Water grossed $27 million in the United States and Canada and $10.9 million in other territories for a worldwide total of $37.9 million, against a production budget of $12 million.[2]

In North America, the film grossed $621,329 from 32 theaters in its opening weekend, for a $19,417 per theater average.[21] The following weekend, the film expanded to 472 theaters, grossing $2.7 million (a per theater average of $5,709).[22] The film began its wide release at 909 theaters on August 26, and grossed $3.7 million over the weekend, finishing 12th at the box office.[23]

Critical responseEdit

Hell or High Water received critical acclaim, with many praising the film as revitalizing the western genre.[24] On Rotten Tomatoes, the film has an approval rating of 97% based on 280 reviews, with an average rating of 8.49/10. The website's critical consensus reads, "Hell or High Water offers a solidly crafted, well-acted Western heist thriller that eschews mindless gunplay in favor of confident pacing and full-bodied characters."[25] On Metacritic, the film has a score of 88 out of 100, based on reviews from 47 critics, indicating "universal acclaim".[26] Audiences polled by CinemaScore gave the film an average grade of "A–" on an A+ to F scale.[21]

Richard Roeper of the Chicago Sun Times gave the film four out of four stars, saying, "In ways large and small, Hell or High Water is a movie so beautiful and harsh and elegiac and knowing, the moment it was over was the moment I wanted to see it again."[27] IGN reviewer Samantha Ladwig gave the film a 9/10, saying "Hell or High Water surprises with its complex narrative, stuns with its cinematography, and makes up for this summer's shortcomings."[28] Tom Stempel of Creative Screenwriting praised Hell or High Water as "a fresh, smart, bank robbery-character study and one of the best screenplays so far this year."[29]


Hell or High Water received four nominations at the Academy Awards, including Best Picture, Best Supporting Actor for Bridges, Best Original Screenplay and Best Film Editing.


  1. ^ http://www.bbfc.co.uk/releases/hell-or-high-water-film
  2. ^ a b c "Hell or High Water". Box Office Mojo. IMDb. Retrieved May 29, 2017.
  3. ^ Keslassy, Elsa; Hopewell, John (April 22, 2016). "Asghar Farhadi's 'The Salesman' Joins Cannes Film Festival Competition". Variety. Penske Business Media. Retrieved June 22, 2018.
  4. ^ "AFI Awards 2016". AFI Awards. American Film Institute. Retrieved October 10, 2017.
  5. ^ Nordyke, Kimberly; Lewis, Hilary (January 24, 2017). "Oscars: 'La La Land' Ties Record With 14 Nominations". The Hollywood Reporter. Prometheus Global Media. Retrieved January 24, 2017.[dead link]
  6. ^ THR Staff (December 12, 2016). "Golden Globes 2017: The Complete List of Nominations". The Hollywood Reporter. Prometheus Global Media. Retrieved December 12, 2016.
  7. ^ Sullivan, Kevin P. (16 February 2017). "Hell or High Water writer explains the film's ambiguous ending". EW. Retrieved 19 February 2019. I just thought that for either one of them to die was letting them off easy. There was a certain amount of suffering that they both deserved to endure.
  8. ^ a b Fleming, Mike Jr. (April 18, 2012). "Ex-'Sons Of Anarchy' Actor Taylor Sheridan Sells Script To Sidney Kimmel Entertainment". Deadline Hollywood. Penske Business Media. Retrieved June 2, 2015.
  9. ^ Thompson, Anne (June 21, 2018). "'Sicario: Day of the Soldado': Benicio Del Toro Says It's Better Than The Doors' First Album". IndieWire. Retrieved August 30, 2018.
  10. ^ NM Film News (May 4, 2016). "Comancheria turned "Hell or High Water"". NM Film News. OneHeadlightInk. Retrieved June 22, 2018.
  11. ^ Finke, Nikki (December 17, 2012). "The Black List 2012: Screenplay Roster". Deadline Hollywood. Penske Business Media. Retrieved June 2, 2015.
  12. ^ Jaafar, Ali (April 2, 2015). "Jeff Bridges To Star In David Mackenzie's 'Comancheria'; Chris Pine, Ben Foster Circling". Deadline Hollywood. Penske Business Media. Retrieved April 27, 2015.
  13. ^ a b Ford, Rebecca (May 4, 2015). "Cannes: CBS Films Picks Up Chris Pine Action Movie 'Comancheria' for U.S." The Hollywood Reporter. Retrieved June 2, 2015.
  14. ^ a b Fleming, Mike Jr. (May 4, 2015). "'Comancheria' With Chris Pine, Ben Foster & Jeff Bridges Acquired By CBS Films". Deadline Hollywood. Penske Business Media. Retrieved June 2, 2015.
  15. ^ Gleiberman, Owen (May 16, 2016). "Cannes Film Review: 'Hell or High Water'". Variety. Penske Business Media. Retrieved August 15, 2016.
  16. ^ Panosian, Diane (June 1, 2015). "On the Set for 6/1/15: James Gunn Starts Shooting 'The Belko Experiment', Michael Keaton Begins Mcdonald's Biopic 'The Founder' & More". SSN Insider. Archived from the original on September 8, 2015. Retrieved June 1, 2015.
  17. ^ Garcia, Thomas (June 10, 2015). "Hollywood comes to Tucumcari". Albuquerque Journal. Retrieved March 19, 2018.
  18. ^ Associated Press (June 3, 2015). "Hollywood comes to Tucumcari". News OK. Retrieved March 19, 2018.
  19. ^ Buzek, Aubry (May 23, 2015). "Lights, camera, 'Comancheria'". The Eastern New Mexico News. Retrieved May 16, 2016.
  20. ^ McDonald, Adrian (June 2017). "2016 Feature Film Study" (PDF). Film L.A. Retrieved June 14, 2018.
  21. ^ a b Brooks, Brian (August 14, 2016). "'Hell Or High Water' Hits The Mark In Debut; 'Don't Think Twice' Solid In Expansion: Specialty Box Office". Deadline Hollywood. Penske Business Media. Retrieved August 18, 2016.
  22. ^ D'Alessandro, Anthony (August 22, 2016). "The Perils Of Remakes Like 'Ben-Hur' As Moviegoers Continue To Worship 'Suicide Squad' – Monday Final B.O." Deadline Hollywood. Penske Business Media. Retrieved June 22, 2018.
  23. ^ D'Alessandro, Anthony. "'Don't Breathe' Screams $26M+, Gives Sony 3rd Summer Cash Cow After 'Sausage Party', 'Shallows': Sunday Update". Deadline Hollywood. Penske Business Media. Retrieved August 28, 2016.
  24. ^ D'Alessandro, Anthony (May 19, 2016). "'Hell Or High Water' Breaks Out On Croisette; Director David Mackenzie On Capturing "The Loss Of The Old West" – Cannes". Deadline Hollywood. Penske Business Media. Retrieved August 28, 2016.
  25. ^ "Hell or High Water (2016)". Rotten Tomatoes. Fandango Media. Retrieved July 21, 2018.
  26. ^ "Hell or High Water Reviews". Metacritic. CBS Interactive. Retrieved September 2, 2016.
  27. ^ Roeper, Richard (August 11, 2016). "Hell or High Water: Modern western the year's best film so far". Chicago Sun Times. Retrieved September 3, 2016.
  28. ^ Ladwig, Samantha (August 14, 2016). "Hell or High Water Review". IGN. Ziff Davis. Retrieved August 20, 2016.
  29. ^ Stempel, Tom (September 1, 2016). "Understanding Screenwriting #148". Creative Screenwriting. Retrieved September 6, 2016.

External linksEdit