A black 1934 Ford V-8 travels down along a country road in Texas. It’s a beautiful car that seems so smooth and lovely as it rushes over the gravel road. Inside the car is Kevin Costner (playing the role of Francis Augustus Hamer (March 17, 1884 – July 10, 1955) an American law enforcement officer and Texas Ranger who led the 1934 posse that tracked down and killed criminals Bonnie Parker and Clyde Barrow.
This is a scene that has stayed in my mind from the Netflix movie, the Highwaymen, which I recently watched on a Saturday evening. We’ve been taking out a lot of movies since the initial lockdown. We are most fortunate to have one of the best video stores in the country known as the Video Spot situated in Craighall. It’s amazing that this video store has survived despite online streaming of feature films and TV series.
There’s a sense of excitement as Costner leaves his wife and comes out of retirement as a Texas Ranger to hunt down the criminals Bonnie Parker and Clyde Barrow. We know the outcome because it is history. The two criminals were glamorized in the film Bonnie and Clyde (a 1967 American biographical crime film directed by Arthur Penn and starring Warren Beatty and Faye Dunaway as the title characters). However, the one thing we don’t know is how Bonnie and Clyde were eventually caught.
Not knowing how they were caught is the story engine. It is exciting to watch how the two Texas Rangers have to do a lot of spade work through making connections with people and using a road map with a China marker. The two of them have to think like the criminals and try to guess what they are up to and where they will be.
I was expecting a lot of gun fighting but was surprised how little there was of this (except for the criminal shootings by Bonnie and Clyde and the finale of course). Most of the film was really about the mental work that went into hunting down the criminals.
For me, Kevin Costner has been a good actor but not in the category of some of the greats such as Robert De Niro, Clint Eastwood and Mel Gibson. Costner in my mind plays his best role in this movie. I enjoyed his silences and how you could see his mind working and his body language as he struggles with his emotions.
I must say that Woody Harrelson (in the role of Texas Ranger Maney Gault) plays one of his best roles in my books.
What I loved about the film was that it was more than a criminal Hunt. Two Texas Rangers, come out of retirement to risk their lives and their reputations and battle with the past and the present. They are laughed at and scorned but in the end they are redeemed by being successful at the job they know how to do.
The black 1934 Ford V-8 allows the stoic Hamer and Gault to methodically track down Bonnie and Clyde over 102 days and 15 states. Alongside Costner and Harrelson the car, hard, rugged and reliable, plays a brilliant supportive role.