Camera Girl rarely requests a movie so when she does, I try to meet her halfway. She told me she saw an interview with Kevin Costner on one of her girlie morning shows and he was talking about a Netflix movie he was in called “The Highwaymen.” We both liked Costner in “Open Range,” so I was willing to give this a shot. I’m glad I did.
Kevin Costner and Woody Harrelson play two retired Texas Rangers (actually the Rangers had been disbanded by a woman Texas governor named Ma Ferguson (played by Kathy Bates) who are called out of retirement out of desperation because Bonnie and Clyde were on a murder and robbery spree that even the FBI couldn’t stop. Costner and Harrelson are (respectively) Frank Hamer and Maney Gault. Although most of the time Maney calls Frank, Pancho. The two old lawmen discover that they’ve lost more than a step and after testing out their current accuracy with pistols they decide to invest heavily in machine guns to try and even up the fight with the Barrow gang.
Every few days the Barrows murder a few more police and always in a brutal and sadistic way. When one particular shooting is recorded to have involved a thousand rounds of ammunition Maney questions if he and Pancho are even sane for contemplating a confrontation with these trigger-happy killers. And in fact, the FBI is also dead set against the old pair getting involved in the manhunt once the two rangers leave Texas soil. They taunt them for their old-fashioned methods and flaunt their access to wire-tapping information and coordinated roadblocks across the Mid-West.
But what the old men do possess is an understanding of how these desperados think and operate. Hamer anticipates the ways that the gang avoids the police and why they will end up down in Louisiana where they will face their reckoning.
And of course, since this is the story of Bonnie and Clyde, we see a torrent of lead, riddle the gangsters’ car and bodies with bullets. It is a sobering sight.
During the manhunt we learn a little about Maney and Frank and how they developed the reputation as mankillers. We see that Gault is a man filled with remorse for some of the excesses that were forced on him in his days shooting it out with bandits. And we find out that Hamer is the ruthless opponent he is because of his personal knowledge of how dangerous and unhesitating their opponents really are.
Although the movie shows just how popular Bonnie and Clyde were for the young and poor people in the Mid-West it in no way portrays them as victims. Bonnie is especially shown to take a sadistic delight in terrifying her victims at the moment of death. The one really touching scene is when Hamer comes face to face with Clyde Barrow’s father. You see the opposite points of view on what caused Clyde’s fate but he learns that the man has come to terms with the action that he knows Hamer must perform, kill his son. He needs it done to put an end to his family’s agony.
Costner and Harrelson are an odd couple and Costner is the straight man to Harrelson’s slightly eccentric character. They do a good and generally understated job of showing us the story of how Bonnie and Clyde were finally stopped.
It’s a good crime drama and well worth the time spent. Well done, Camera Girl, well done.