The Highwaymen has just dropped on Netflix and whilst this real-life crime thriller is currently picking up a lot of mixed reviews I thought I’d bring you my thoughts to let you know whether it’s worth staying in for this weekend.
The film centres around the two policemen that were tasked with hunting down real-life fugitives Bonnie and Clyde. The Highway Men, played by Kevin Costner and Woody Harrellson not only struggle with taking down the criminals but also their personal conflicts.
It’s clear that both are living in a world that disregards the law as a nuisance and hates them for merely trying to protect the population. Juxtaposing this, Bonnie and Clyde are viewed by society as heroes even though they attack the innocent mercilessly and have to be stopped.
This adds a lot of depth to the film and the evolution of The Highwaymen into becoming just as bad as the people they are hunting down definitely elevates it from a plot perspective.
This compliments the movie and it has to be said that the music, cinematography and setting add a lot to the film to ground it in a tone that many will find fascinating. This is a dark cop thriller and those who find enjoyment in straight-laced, gritty films will probably like this more than most.
This is pure Kevin Costner and Woody Harrellson doing well…Kevin Costner and Woody Harrellson, the latter always seems ready to throw down for a fight whereas the former grunts and mumbles his way through the movie for the majority of it. Now whether you like this or not is going to be a big factor in whether you are able to enjoy the movie.
Personally, I love the two actors and both are class acts that really cement them as some of the most capable actors of their generation.
They use long stares, silences and body language to get their points across and slowly work their way up through the trail of the outlaws until they eventually come head to head with them.
However, for some this may be dull and if there’s one continued criticism that I’ve seen towards the film it is that it’s dull and meandering with little payoff.
The work seems to set up a lot of things that it doesn’t eventually deliver upon impactfully and overall this makes it quite difficult to sustain your concentration when the movie isn’t focused on the main plot.
One of the biggest failings of the film I think is that it doesn’t really bring any focus to Bonnie and Clyde beyond their legend. This could have been a really interesting psychology study of the thought process of a murderer and how those tasked with hunting them must match their mind state.
Overall though this is a good addition to the platform and I enjoyed the film. I recommend that you give it a watch at some point this weekend though I wouldn’t cancel your plans for it.
The Highway men gets a…
The Real Life Story
And now onto the real-life story. The highwaymen acts as a more condensed version of the true tale of the two as they tracked down the infamous duo and because of this many events happen a lot faster than they did in real life.
Bonnie Parker and Clyde Barrow originally met in 1930 but they didn’t begin their crime spree until two years later. This raged across the United States until 1934 when Frank Hamer, played by Costner in the film, ambushed the couple and killed them. With the help of police, Hamer pumped over 130 rounds into the pair until they were brought down.
Whilst Bonnie and Clyde have been memorialised in film throughout the decades, The Highwaymen is the first film to invert this perspective.
After a string of escapes and robberies, Texas Governor Miriam Ferguson, played by Kathy Bates, convinced Hamer to come out of retirement and instructed him to kill the gang. Hamer was an old school lawman that had spent decades fighting bootleggers, the KKK and smugglers.
Unable to pay Hamer, he was instead instructed to take whatever he wanted from the group’s possessions.
Hamer was able to follow the gang but didn’t get an opportunity to take them down until 1934 after the family of Henry Methvin agreed to set up an ambush point in exchange for a pardon from the state of Texas.
Hamer and the Dallas County Sheriffs managed to kill the two and whilst the film even shot this scene on location at where they died, it’s impossible to guarantee whether this is accurate or not.
This is purely due to the fact that there have been so many conflicting accounts but one thing that is confirmed by all is that the Police fired first.
Whether there was a warning given or not is up for debate but its fair to assume that the police were pretty on edge after the several murders that there had been. It’s safe to say that their suspicions were well founded too as in the car Hamer described them as carrying an ‘Arsenal On Wheels.’
This included several automatic rifles, sawed-off shotguns, ten pistols and over 5000 rounds of ammunition.
In the end, Hamer kept the weapons and also took a box of fishing gear.
The rest of the gang were eventually caught and executed with Methvin being sentenced for murder in Oklahoma before dying in 1955.
Overall it’s a fascinating tale and I highly recommend that you look further into it if the Netflix film has piqued your interest.
If you enjoyed or disliked the film then make sure you leave your review in the comments below and if you enjoyed this video then make sure you check out my trailer breakdown of Scary Stories To Tell In The Dark, which will be linked at the end.