The timeless, true-story tale of Bonnie Parker and Clyde Barrow is one Hollywood is all-too-familiar with. Of course, Arthur Penn’s landmark 1967 game-changer, “Bonnie and Clyde,” announced a new era for cinema, one free from the restraints of censoring and pushing the boundaries of violence, profanity and sex on the screen. While the depicted story has never been cinematically matched, the young-lovers-on-a-killing-spree spurred derivatives ranging from Terrence Malick’s “Badlands” to Oliver Stone’s “Natural Born Killers.” Like any salacious true-crime news story, this saga is consistently consumed by the general public, but the perspective has mostly been limited to the criminals themselves, and not the crime fighters who brought them down. John Lee Hancock’s “The Highwaymen” thus seeks to reverse this familiar narrative.
The synopsis spins as such:
“The Highwaymen” follows Texas Ranger Frank Hamer and ex-partner Maney Gault. The lawmen were out of the Rangers by the time Bonnie & Clyde started their robbery reign, but were commissioned as special investigators, coaxed by a consortium of banks to assemble a posse and end the robbery spree of the notorious gang reputed to have killed 13 cops and others.
Hamer and Gault are played by the seasoned duo of Kevin Costner and Woody Harrelson, two veterans who are not strangers to law-enforcement roles. The characters originally were to be played by Paul Newman and Robert Redford back when the project was starting its development. Since Costner and Harrelson have never starred in a film together, it is hard to say if their chemistry will provide the emotion they have provided before in such roles–Costner in “The Untouchables” and Harrelson most recently in the first season of “True Detective.”
This will also be John Lee Hancock’s first foray into the crime genre, having built a career with films tinged with his Texan/Southern touch (“The Rookie,” “The Alamo,” “The Blind Side”) alongside high-profile biopics (“Saving Mr. Banks,” “The Founder”). “The Highwaymen”, given its environment and attitude, seems to be up his alley, but one questions whether his usually tame and safe directorial style will accommodate the violent story.
“The Highwaymen,” starring Kevin Costner and Woody Harrelson, will be released by Netflix on March 29, 2019.