The stars align in the Western sky. Hell or High Water is the sort of film that tempts the critic — well, this one, anyway — to start writing the sort of copy that might end up as a promo-poster pullquote. “Timeless and yet supremely timely,” “A movie with tremendous action that, wonderfully, doesn’t turn into an action movie,” “Hooks you hard and reels you in, but not before it pulls your sympathy in every conceivable direction.” That sort of thing. Chris Pine and Ben Foster star as Toby and Tanner, luckless but savvy brothers just setting out on a controlled spree of bank robberies. Jeff Bridges and Gil Birmingham star as Marcus and Alberto, the aging Texas Rangers out to stop them. The outlaws believe their cause is just, or something close to it: they were dealt a bad hand at the outset, and that was before the house started rigging the game. The Rangers, on the other hand, have the luxury of simply enforcing the law. (Then again, that means they have to chase gun-toting outlaws.) And the rotten world keeps on spinning. Director David Mackenzie tells a sad story about desperate characters that is somehow as thrilling as it is heartbreaking. (2016) — Matthew Lickona
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