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“The Highwaymen” Features Kevin Costner At His Reliable Best

Kevin Costner is an actor who makes almost everything he’s in better. A reliable force in Hollywood for decades now, he brings a gravitas to his roles that elevate most projects. In the case of The Highwaymen, a new film that just hit Netflix yesterday, his performance almost is enough to recommend it on its own. The whole final product is a bit too uneven, though Costner is really strong in the central role. While the flick is making some unusual choices, Costner is just doing his thing and putting the movie on his back. It doesn’t fully make up for the shortcomings, but the film knows that Costner is the selling point and leans into that.

The movie is a true life drama based on the untold story of the two legendary detectives and former Texas Rangers who were able to bring down Bonnie and Clyde. At the onset, the celebrity criminals are rampaging throughout the country. As the full force of the still in its infancy FBI and the very latest in forensic technology aren’t doing the job, an old fashioned force is brought in to even the odds. In order to capture the nation’s most notorious criminals on the lamb, two former Texas Rangers in Frank Hamer (Kevin Costner) and Maney Gault (Woody Harrelson) are brought out of retirement. The Rangers have been disbanded, but they’re going to revitalize them, in order to bring down Bonnie and Clyde, by any means necessary. To do so, they must rely on their gut instincts and a sense that their whole careers have been leading to this moment. There’s a lot of waiting around, but anyone who knows this story knows where it’s going. This is just the inverse of the tale you’ve already heard. John Lee Hancock directs a script by John Fusco, with cinematography by John Schwartzman and a score by Thomas Newman. Supporting players here include Kathy Bates, Edward Bossert, Emily Brobst, W. Earl Brown, Kim Dickens, John Carroll Lynch, Thomas Mann, William Sadler, and more.

Costner comes close to bringing this one over the finish line. Some of the supporting players seem like they’re playing costume dress up, but he’s perfectly at home in this otherwise uneven tale. Harrelson also fairs well, but Costner is the heart and soul of the film. It’s a take on a part he’s played before over the years, but he’s so believable and effective in the role that you never care. He invests the character with a world weariness that tells you everything you need to know about the man. It’s truly one of his best performances of late and a perfect showcase for Costner.

To some degree, the problem is in this particular angle taken in telling the story. Opting to put Bonnie and Clyde very much in the background is the central idea, but they wind up being the most interesting aspect of the flick. Again, Costner is great, but Hamer is hardly as interesting a character. Too much of the movie is spent waiting for something to happen. It looks and sounds good, but the length makes for uneven pacing, which in turn puts more of a focus on the lack of the compelling criminals. The Highwaymen wanted to take this approach, that’s for sure. It just leads to a feeling of lacking the whole tale.

As of yesterday, The Highwaymen is available to stream on Netflix. The film is just shy of where it needs to be in order to warrant a recommendation, but it’s hardly bad. This is a movie that gives you top notch production values, a game Harrelson, and Costner as good as we’ve seen him in a long while. That might be enough for you. Or, maybe just getting a new look at the Bonnie and Clyde legend is enough? If so, you know where to find this one. Just know that yours truly found it ever so slightly missing the mark…

The Highwaymen is now streaming on Netflix!

About Joey Magidson

A graduate of Stony Brook University (where he studied Cinema and Cultural Studies), resides in Brooklyn, New York. He contributes to several other film-related websites and is a member of the Broadcast Film Critics Association.

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