The latest Netflix Original is another tale about Bonnie and Clyde, but this time, based on the perspective of the lawmen that chased them and eventually got them killed.
The Highwaymen sets in 1934 where our main characters Frank Hamer, played by Kevin Costner and Maney Gault, played by Woody Harrelson, is a biopic of the “true untold story” of how they caught and killed the infamous Bonnie and Clyde.
The movie was initially set to be the reunion of Robert Redford and Paul Newman, but plans changed as time went by.
But, don’t expect this to be another movie about Bonnie Elizabeth Parker and Clyde Champion Barrow. The Netflix film isn’t about romanticizing the crimes by the criminal lovers across the Central United States; it is what it is: a hunt and the odd but compatible characters of the hunters.
The movie starts with our heroes retired from the Rangers due to an anti-Ranger Texas Governor, Miriam “Ma” Ferguson (Kathy Bates). However, Bonnie and Clyde’s latest crime on the Eastham prison farm, caused “Ma” to reinstate Hamer into the force assigned to the Texas Highway Patrol, where he will ask the help of Gault. Under the table, he was placed to bring the couple to justice.
You’ll see a lot of misses across the movie, as Bonnie and Clyde seems to be always one step ahead of Hammer and Gault, as they continue to wreak havoc crisscrossing state lines—Texas, Oklahoma, Iowa, Louisiana—leaving a stream of bodies in their wake.
What follows is a rather odd mix of characters between the two lawmen. It is consistently portrayed that they are too old to be doing the kind of work that they were commissioned to do.
It also plays around the plot about the old-fashioned duo’s approach to hunting down bad guys and their unease with using new technology such as wiretapping.
But in the end, as we all know, their rather old but effective means were just the thing they needed for the job.
Throughout the movie, there will hardly be enough action or excitement to get the audience going. This is one of those films that you need to stick with to the finish.
It’s a true ode to classic Hollywood biopics. The general feel and vibe stem throughout, which are not what the current audience is in to. It is safe to say that this is not Netflix’s contender for another Oscar after Roma’s success.
However, by all means, the Highwaymen is not a bad movie. What you see is what you get. It’s instead an accurate version of the story without too much or any attempt at making the film more than what it originally is.
But, the Highwaymen does do one thing right; balancing the original 1967 Bonnie and Clyde by Arthur Penn, which was filled with romanticism on the couple’s crimes across the country, and led the people to fall in love with the lovers rather than despise them. We have developed a particular interest where we ask “what if the couple didn’t get caught and got to continue their love story,” then deaths would have also climbed, but that hardly mattered as long as their love kept burning.
In fact, in the Highwaymen, the lovelorn lovers are even to be considered characters at all. They are barely seen, with hardly any lines or much of any character in their roles. We see them getting chased around by clever old men and eventually dies.
Overall, the movie wasn’t bad; it just could have been better. Hamer’s character could have been explored exceptionally, as he was deeply entwined with the story, even after the capture and death of Bonnie and Clyde.
In Penn’s version of the story, he created a scene where Hamer was caught and was humiliated by the couple. But in real life, he only got to see them when he helped kill the couple in the Louisiana ambush. In 1971, Hamer’s family successfully sued Warner Bros. for this fabrication, winning an undisclosed settlement but leaving Penn’s version of the tale essentially undisturbed.
At least now, we get two contrasting but balancing sides of the story that will leave people wondering rather than merely saying that the tale was a love story and neglecting the rest.