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Thursday, April 4, 2019

A Little Praise for NETFLIX: Highwaymen

I love the idea of NETFLIX but haven't been crazy about much of their product. I like that non-Hollywood productions get a good shot at major audience shares, and that a lot of very talented filmmakers from around the world get exposure. I have been very impressed with some of the films coming out of Scandinavia, Eastern Europe, and Spain. That said, much if not most NETFLIX programming, nevertheless, remains very PC/prog oriented. Is nearly every senior British, American, or Swedish police detective a black, lesbian single mom? Too much.

There, however, are some exceptions to this PC dominance. One of the best is Highwaymen starring a grizzled Kevin Costner and an even more grizzled Woody Harrelson as the two ex-Texas Rangers (Frank Hamer and Maney Gault, respectively) who led the successful hunt for Bonnie and Clyde in 1934. Unlike other films made about Bonnie and Clyde, this one focuses on the (flawed) guys who went after them--the Rangers, we should note, and Hamer and Gault specifically, had a history of brutality especially when dealing with Mexican outlaws. Hamer and Gault come off as old time cowboys caught in and trying to navigate their way through a world of slick FBI agents, politicians, early forensic science, two-way radios, and fake news.

Let's face it: B&C were serial murderers or spree killers, who showed no respect for the lives of others, especially cops. In Highwaymen, the two bandits, rarely seen, are not the glamorous figures of Arthur Penn's 1967 Bonnie and Clyde.

Just about everything in the film seems period correct: the language, the scandalous press, the crushing poverty, the B&C groupies, the migrant camps, the clothes, the guns, the cars (OK, forget about the radial tires). It even has a wonderful scene at a local gun store when Hamer buys the weaponry and ammo for his team. The superb photography, by the way, draws you into the environment of Depression-era Texas and Louisiana.

The band of cops put together by Hamer and Gault who eventually caught up to and killed B&C also seem era appropriate: no bad-ass woman, no obligatory black or Asian guy, no hints of homosexuality. On women, Cathy Bates does an excellent job with the role of the colorful and bigger than life Ma "Two Governors for the Price of One" Ferguson, first woman governor of Texas, and while a hater of the Texas Rangers, politically aware enough to realize that she needed some truly hard men to put an end to B&C. The ambush scene, incidentally, was filmed at the exact spot in Louisiana where it took place, a nice tribute to the true story.

Sure, at times the movie is a bit slow, but that is compensated by the truly excellent acting of Kosner and, especially, Harrelson.

Give it a shot. It's good old fashioned story telling. A good time will be had.

33 comments:

  1. Thanks very much for the movie tip. 'Her Ladyship' and I saw the Costner feller get interviewed on one of the three morning network (the ones used to be available via rabbit-ears) shows and she managed finally, to get me to agree to give Netflix a spin. Have to admit to being a little right of dubious at the proposition - those black, lesbian single-moms (parents having just arrived "on these shores") struggling in this patriarchal supremacist society just to get by on Cheetos and Diet Cokes simply 'to make her/zer way' in this gritty world of being an unrecognized (and unacclaimed) top shelf homicide detective doncha know ...

    (Man oh man it's hard to keep up with all the checkboxes one is expected to tick off whenever one sets out to make a comment about anything Hollywood.)

    At any rate, if anybody's interested in those early days of what used to be in the earliest of days of the 20th Century, The Bureau what's come to be known as the FBI - here's a book plug:

    https://www.amazon.com/Killers-Flower-Moon-Osage-Murders/dp/0385534248

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    Replies
    1. That was a truly interesting book. Second the recommendation.

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    2. Hey consider coming up with a nom de guerre. Comments are good and I want to be able to follow them. Just type it in under reply as name URL

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    3. I will even suggest one. Pulsing purple pumpernickel. Actually working pulsing purple into anyting should work.

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  2. I beg to differ about Costner, though I have not seen this movie. He has directed some good movies, but he has to be the most wooden and un-expressive actor around. He looks, acts, and sounds the same in every film he has been in.

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    Replies
    1. In person,Costner is a huge asshole, at least after he's had a couple of drinks. From a trusted source. Billy Gibbons of ZZ Top, however, is the exact opposite.

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    2. Costner's only good movie, thus far, is "Bull Durham" and that is because he was a college baseball player,. I have Hamer's biography, "My name is Frank Hamer." He was the real deal and had been shot over 20 times. He was the man Coke Stevenson selected to go to San Antonio with him to examine ballots in the 1948 Senate race with LBJ. Abe Fortas got to Harry Blackman first and the effort was wasted.

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  3. I just watched this last night. It was fairly good. I did get a bit worked up over the scene when Costner pulls out the Colt Monitor and starts rattling off about it. I don't know what it is with Hollywood, but it's called a Magazine not a clip for Christ's sake, and a Browning Auto Rifle does NOT fire 3000 rounds a minute, it's cyclic rate is more like 650. I thought it interesting that the movie did not glorify B&C and painted them as murderers. The Left press is not liking that law and order stuff at all. B&C are supposed to be portrayed acting like Bernie Sanders with a Thompson.

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    Replies
    1. I've identified the real gun nut the comment section.

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    2. And Isaac Asimov fan

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    3. It wasn't 3000 rounds per minute, it was 3000 feet per second - near enough (for the movies, at least...) to actual 30-06 velocities.
      I liked the film - 106 days on the road would have been, in the main, hard, boring, work. That was portrayed without rubbing your face in it, and all made the movie more believable.

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  4. Go Down Together by Jeff Gunn is an interesting book about Bonnie and Clyde. He goes into their families a bit and gives a better understanding of the culture they came out of. Haven't seen this particular show but might be worth signing up for Netflix to watch it.

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  5. We just recently stopped our subscription to Netflix. Every year it was just ten or twenty bucks more... For what? Entertainment.
    I'm entertained enough.

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    Replies
    1. I signed up to watch Doc Martin, the only TV series I have ever watched. I understand that Netflix does not carry it now.

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    2. It might be a little too racy for a strait-laced old Catholic like you but Game of Thrones on HBO is excellent. Gwright

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  6. Read a book by Curt Gentry called " The Man Behind the Secrets"
    J Edgar Hoover
    15 years in the making,thousands of citations in it.
    You read that and it makes today's antics look like child's play

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  7. Clyde Barrow, not exactly the best thing to come out of West Allis, WI.

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  8. Well, Dip, I watched Highwaymen tonight, perhaps at your rec. I quite enjoyed it, especially the gorgeous photography and the portrayals of life in the 30's.
    Still not a great Costner fan, though he seemed to move beyond his usual monotone in this one -- good on him.

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  9. "much if not most NETFLIX programming, nevertheless, remains very PC/prog oriented. Is nearly every senior British, American, or Swedish police detective a black, lesbian single mom?"

    For a refreshing point of view, take a look at "Still Game" on Netflix. Ford Kiernan and Greg Hemphill paint a decidedly un-PC picture of pensioners' life in modern Scotland. Definitely not the sort of thing we get fed on PBS.

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  10. I've been looking forward to this movie. I also watch for Bollywood, that's some interesting stuff there.

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  11. My family hates watching movies with me these these days. I know i'm a horse's ass but can't contain myself. Example: Sid "ahh the magical negro has arrived, he will set all straight" and "ahh.. of course, the interracial couple, man he's lucky he got her to moderate his dumbassery" and "ahh the wise, yet sassy, black women character, my favorite. Sid "ahh guys kissing, wonderful" Sid "pay attention daughters, this scene shows how cute and cool it is to be promiscuous and whorey" I could go on but it does grow tiresome i will admit. The kids pretty much hate me these days but i do smile furtively when i hear they say something sarcastic like "this movie needs more sassy black women in it" or something biting racist to their friends. Yes gentlemen this is what i am have been reduced to. In my defense, it's all reactionary.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Ah, yes, my wife has the same complaint about me. She can see me fidgeting when the all-woman SWAT unit shows up, or the gravely-voiced lesbian lead detective figures out what the dopey straight white men could not . . .

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  12. Thanks for the tip Dip.

    Watched Highmen last night and thoroughly enjoyed it.

    That was one hell of an armoury Costner bought near the start of the show.

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    Replies
    1. I know I became envious.

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    2. I always wanted one of those Colt Automatic Rifles.

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    3. Stephen Hunter, in one of his later books G-Man writes pages about the Colt Monitor. Worth your time to read it (and anything by Stephen Hunter).

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  13. Took your advice. Enjoyed it. Thought both lead actors were spot on. Agree with the comments re: the PC nature of Netflix offerings. However, not at the point of leaving (even though they just raised their monthly fee) as there are still good choices available and the offerings on cable (I've got all the premium channels - its only money) are no better. Mr D you have a great blog and your insights are invariably the most incisive to be found on the internet. Thanks for taking the time to communicate with us.

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  14. Worse than the sassy black, lesbian detectives is the historical "revisionism". Mary Queen of Scots-- who knew that 16th century Scotlan was full of blacks and homosexuals in the oh, so catholic Mary's intinmate circle? It was so blatant that it was jarring.
    Delilah

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    Replies
    1. When I saw the trailer and what the idiot filmmakers had done to history, I refused to go see it.

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  15. Did you see the subway scene in finest hour? Winston Churchill was bucked up by a black Londoner. Wrong on so many levels.

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    Replies
    1. That whole underground/subway scene ruined much of the film. It was beyond idiotic.

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  16. "Ma" Ferguson and her hubby and chief adviser "Pa" were more interesting and a good bit more sophisticated than they are usually given credit for. She was the first elected female governor, although her husband (a former impeached governor) was pretty much the co-governor. (He couldn't hold any public office under his own name after being impeached ... sigh. Texas has always conducted politics with brass knuckles...)
    But they were anti-Prohibition - and more. I wrote about them here.

    "As part of her first campaign, Ma Ferguson promised an anti-mask law, targeting the Klan, making it illegal for any so-called secret society to allow members to appear masked or disguised in public. KKK membership in Texas dropped precipitously and continued to drop; whether Team Ferguson’s activities had anything to do with it, or they were shrewd and farsighted enough to see the trend and get aboard is a matter of contention for specialist historians. Still – for a couple who were and probably are still dismissed as a pair of rubes, they chose to oppose one of the stupidest but most well-meant popular social efforts of the early 20th century, and one of stupidest and most brutal organizations as well."

    http://www.celiahayes.com/archives/2426

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