The Highwaymen doesn’t rise up

L-R: Woody Harrelson ("Maney Gault”) and Kevin Costner ("Frank Hamer") in The Highwaymen. Photo Courtesy of Netflix.

The Highwaymen tells the story of Bonnie and Clyde but from a different point of view as this film follows the detectives that brought them to justice.

The Blind Side‘s John Lee Hooker takes us back to a different time when Texas Rangers Frank Hamer (Kevin Costner) and Maney Gault (Woody Harrelson) are forced out of retirement.  The reason?  Having to chase down a pair of folks named Bonnie (Emily Brobst) and Clyde (Ed Bossert).  Hamer and Gault have to do the one thing that the FBI is unable to do.  With nobody else able to capture the duo, Texas Prison System general manager Lee Simmons (John Carroll Lynch) persuades Governor Ma Ferguson (Kathy Bates) to get the Hamer and Gault to work.  The Texas Rangers are very much still old school at this time.  What is clear is that the FBI tactics are definitely not working.

There’s a lot to be said about whether a Netflix film is best viewed in theaters or on the small screen.  Regardless, I’m not sure if my thoughts on the film would be different in a theatrical setting.  If I’m being 100% honest, I found myself getting bored during much of the 2-hour plus run time.  I honestly found myself somewhat thankful in choosing to see a different film during the world premiere.  But I digress.  This may be a film that you find yourself wanting to see.  I like both Kevin Costner and Woody Harrelson but alas, their best efforts couldn’t save the film.  It’s unfortunate because Hamer deserves the fame.  He should have a true moment of cinematic glory.  That moment might never come.  The same, too, goes for Maney Gault.  Unfortunately, this isn’t not without some unfortunate embellishments.

Listen, this flipping of the story we’ve seen before sounds like a good idea on paper.  It’s this exact type of film that audiences generally fall for during awards season.  So what exactly is the problem here?  For starters, the execution simply doesn’t work.  So unfortunate!  The film could benefit from another round of editing to tighten things up.  We’re already well over two hours.  Bonnie and Clyde won a pair of Oscars and picked up several nominations.  The 1967 classic runs a few minutes shy of two hours.  I found the pacing to be quite slow as the film ballooned to over two hours.

Frank Hamer is an American hero.  Make no mistake about it.  The lawman certainly deserves his due.  But again, the film fails in other areas such as the lengthy run time.  There’s a solid story about the lawmen who brought down Bonnie and Clyde but The Highwaymen isn’t it.

DIRECTOR:  John Lee Hancock
CAST:  Kevin Costner, Woody Harrelson, Kathy Bates, John Carroll Lynch, Emily Brobst, Ed Bossert, and Kim Dickens

Following the world premiere during the 2019 SXSW Film Festival and a brief theatrical run, The Highwaymen launches on Netflix on March 29, 2019. Grade: 2.5/5

Danielle Solzman

Danielle Solzman is native of Louisville, KY, and holds a BA in Public Relations from Northern Kentucky University and a MA in Media Communications from Webster University. She roots for her beloved Kentucky Wildcats, St. Louis Cardinals, Indianapolis Colts, and Boston Celtics. Living less than a mile away from Wrigley Field in Chicago, she is an active reader (sports/entertainment/history/biographies/select fiction) and involved with the Chicago improv scene. She also sees many movies and reviews them. She has previously written for Redbird Rants, Wildcat Blue Nation, and Hidden Remote/Flicksided. From April 2016 through May 2017, her film reviews can be found on Creators.