The Highwaymen Review – A Solid Story with Strong Character Driven Performances

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The Highwaymen, a Netflix original, presents the true story of two Texas Rangers and the race against time to capture of Bonnie and Clyde, the most notorious killers in the history of law enforcement, before they kill again.

Directed by John Lee Hancock and written by John Fusco, The Highwaymen stars Kevin Costner, Woody Harrelson, Kathy Bates, Kim Dickens, Emily Brobst, Edward Bossert, John Carroll Lynch, Thomas Mann, Jane McNeil, David Furr, Luke Loveless, W. Earl Brown, Izzy Gaspersz, Jesse C. Boyd and William Sadler.

The film begins in the backwoods of some nowhere town in Texas where a chain gang is busting rocks, picking up sticks, and passing the time under heavy guard. A slight signal between the prisoners and the plan, obviously an escape, is on. A woman steps from a car parked on the edge of field and slowly walking she begins to fire rounds from a machine gun into woods.

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The signal sent the prisoners running to the waiting car and soon Bonnie Parker, played by Emily Brobst, and Clyde Barrow, played by Edward Bossert, were joined by two others in a bold prison bust. Before long Bonnie & Clyde had pulled their stranded motorist ploy and when police stop before they have a minute to understand the trap, they murdered in cold blood.

The news of another cop being killed by the infamous Bonnie & Clyde hadn’t escaped the watchful eye of Governor Ma Ferguson, played by Kathy Bates, who needed these two caught and killed yesterday. Their skill and eluding capture and the public’s misplaced fascination with the two made them practically impossible to find.

In today’s cabinet meeting, Lee Simmons played by John Carroll Lynch explains to Governor Ferguson the Texas Rangers, even though they have been disbanded they were effective. Desperate times call for desperate measures and Governor Ferguson gives her approval to recommission the head of the Texas rangers, Frank Hamer, played by Kevin Costner.

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Soon Hamer is fully authorized with jurisdictional boundaries that stopped at the Oklahoma border and all that he needed after stocking up on weapons was a new partner. Which is when we meet Maney Gault, played by Woody Harrelson.

The two had a long history, each taking a bullet for the other at some point, they were the law enforcement in the early days of settling Texas. Now, with Bonnie & Clyde killing every lawmaker they encounter, the two, older and slower, are back to tracking.

Soon they realize they are a side show for the Roosevelt’s G-Men, who armed with the latest crime fighting equipment were missing evidence patterns. The two, after a few retirement missteps, are back to old fashioned investigations.

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Soon Hamer and Gault were a day behind them and building a profile from the trash the left along the way. The two never stayed away from home for long and often return to visit Clyde’s Dad, played by William Sadler. They would often find out of the way places to hide, greener pastures, to lie low until the heat cooled.

With a near miss, the pair escaped Hamer and Gault leaving them frustrated and ready to end the hunt. What follows is end of the biggest manhunts in the history of the Southwest and one last stand for Bonnie & Clyde.

I genuinely enjoyed The Highwaymen. While technically not a western it is very much a western, and very well done, with solid casting. The story set the record straight on Bonnie & Clyde.

Even as Kevin Costner and Woody Harrelson each played the ravages of age well, a little paunch, slower on the trigger, a sip to ease the pain, an overactive bladder, the two had nice screen chemistry which translated well and delivered flawless performances. They were comfortable and an enjoyable indulgence. 

The Highwaymen is not just a Costner/Harrelson showcase, and they are good together. The entire cast has great moments. William Sadler, who plays Mr. Barrow has a scene at the end of the film which resonates. Watch for him as he explains the need for this crime spree his son is on to be ended for himself and his family He captures the emotion that every parent must feel when they get the news their child is a mass murderer.

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The film is a road trip through the 1930’s Depression Era not shying away from the ills that plagued America during those years and seem so familiar as encampments of out of work families, homeless and hungry, line the roads.

The Highwaymen is an homage to the Texas Ranger. It shocks with the violence that seems so modern for nearly 85 years ago. And yet it was played very close to the true story. With a solid story line and strong character driven performances all around, The Highwaymen will deliver strong for the streaming giant. 

The Highwaymen is playing in theaters for two weeks only. Beginning March 29, 2019, The Highwaymen begins is streaming run on Netflix. See it.

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