03rd Apr2019

‘The Highwaymen’ Review (Netflix)

by Jak-Luke Sharp

Stars: Kevin Costner, Woody Harrelson, Kathy Bates, John Carroll Lynch, Thomas Mann, Dean Denton, Kim Dickens, William Sadler, W. Earl Brown, David Furr, Jason Davis, Josh Caras, David Born, Brian F. Durkin, Kaley Wheless | Written by John Fusco | Directed by John Lee Hancock

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The Highwaymen – not to be confused with the Johnny Cash, Willie Nelson and Kris Krisoffsten country supergroup – stars Kevin Costner and Woody Harrelson as Frank Hamer and Maney Gault, respectively and is directed by John Lee Hancock in what is the latest release from streaming giant Netflix. However, much like the bulk of originals that drop out of nowhere from said streaming platform, The Highwaymen is a flat and drastically reduced emotionally resonating character debacle that has no life or energy in its bloated 132 minutes running time.

Sam Mendes’ Road to Perdition or Michael Mann’s Public Enemies this is most certainly not. Sadly, Hancock’s film is merely a poorly constructed counterfeit mimic, if anything, of the two and can’t even stand on its own as an entertaining venture, let alone a well-crafted cinematic product. It’s difficult to choose where the problems first lie with a film like this but if we start with performances, namely that of the leads by Costner and Harrelson, we begin to see the cause and effect of how glib this exploit is. The performance of Costner, in particular, is miserable and quite frankly horrendous. The lack of intrigue and flat momentum he brings to this character without a shred of personality or investment slowly eats away at this film throughout. The sheer lack of commitment is so obvious and condescending to the audience, you’re left with the distinct feeling that Costner thinks this is a waste of time, or that he’s better than the material at hand, and if that’s the case what does he honestly think the audience feel in that regard watching his patronising act on screen?

Harrelson injects just about what he can do with his dire character. The usual flair and personality, as well as that wonderful charm, is here but the film sadly fluffs its lines with the character concerning the depth and layers that emotionally plagues him in such a torturous almost destructive manner. There’s one scene in the films third act where the screenplay by writer John Fusco shows some form of depth and persuasive storytelling, however, for a film that lasts for an antagonizing one hundred and thirty-two minutes running time, it comes at a point of no return. The dynamic between the characters, or Harrelson and Costner for that matter, is laughably poor and basically non-existent. To his credit, Harrelson is most definitely trying. Yet, with such lacklustre material, the connection just wastes away and comes across as two stubborn annoying old men arguing back and forth.

The screenplay, in general, is ever so flat and lifeless. There is just nothing in The Highwaymen that intrigues in a narrative that surely has flair and flavour somewhere beneath the surface but the team behind proceedings from performances, writers and the direction is so poorly implemented it nose dives within the first thirty minutes. To boot, nothing happens in the film for at least the first hour with the filmmakers wanting to create dynamic and weighted character arcs between the two leads but with how poor Costner is and the disastrous layers you’re left in a lukewarm boiling pot that doesn’t want to go anywhere remotely riveting or ambiguous.

The Highwaymen is just missed opportunity after missed opportunity here and the end result is deeply misguided and bland venture, with two leads that don’t fit the bill with horrible chemistry and a director who has absolutely no idea what he’s doing behind the camera or formulate an inviting or entertaining picture; ending up with a film that evokes a sense of patronising parody than anything else.

The Highwaymen is available on Netflix now.

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5 Responses to “‘The Highwaymen’ Review (Netflix)”

  • Josh

    This critic is clueless. I don’t know if his penchant is for Marvel movies that puke stimulus all over the screen or only the most highbrow of theatrical and dramatic Thespianism, but frankly he missed EVERYTHING about what makes this film – and the actors’ performances – great. Maybe if he’d grown up with vintage Costner and Harrelson he’d understand that neither of them settled for phoning this one in, but actually gave it their level best. Costner, particularly, shows a maturity, subtlety, and depth to his character that he didn’t even have in Dances With Wolves (the Oscar for Best Picture that year). The story was great and well-paced for a good ole man hunt flick set in the despair of the Great Depression when giant share of America was suffering in abject poverty. This is more Tombstone meets The Untouchables and should be viewed as such. The critic’s perspective needs to be reframed.

  • Jak-Luke Sharp

    Firstly, why you think you deserve a retort to my initial piece is baffling but for arguments sake, I’ll involve myself to discourage you anymore.

    Secondly, if you would have done only the slightest of minute research on my writing OR my character you’d understand that MARVEL is in no means my central syllabus, of which is the easiest and most hollow insult to throw.

    Lastly, there is a reason why you’re the reader and I am the writer. If you wanted a healthy and honest discourse, sadly you have to want to participate in such.

    • Luke Newman

      I’m with Josh and enjoyed both Costner and Woody Harrelson (despite the slightly hammy beginning to his character’s development) in a well art-directed and photographed film which sketched the era and the bizarre cult around Bonny and Clyde against the strangeness and shifting values of the Depression, quite well. I am not sure how you would expect a retired lawman who has killed several people, carries several wounds and prefers his own company to that of others to ‘be’, but I would expect taciturn and cynical and somewhat flinty – just what Costner gave us. No hubris and no false bravado, just the sad fact of killing a couple of people chasing suicide by cop by the most outrageous means, with all the joy of putting down a dog or horse. From your spiky and immature response to Josh’s comment, it’s not a stretch to assume you haven’t seen much of life and are still pretty wet behind the ears – so before you issue excoriating criticisms of other people’s work – it is probably worth winding your neck in and remembering that those who can, do and those who can’t, criticize.

  • Josh

    You put your writing on the Internet for public consumption and it came up in a search when I looked for reviews – to see what people thought of a movie I enjoyed. Therefore, as a member of the public consuming online content I “deserve” any retort and opinion I darn well please. If you can’t take the heat, get out of the kitchen. I thought you missed the mark. I said so. I’m writing in a “comment box”, not a “praise box”. If you don’t want comments, hide the box.

    I said in my comment that I don’t know your taste – nor do I care to look. I had time to write my comment, not to look up your background. If you want your discerning taste to speak for you – put it right on the page.

    Lastly, being a writer in 2019 only requires that you post with a blog site or even drop a couple bucks per month for a website on GoDaddy. I said my piece and I don’t really care to engage in discourse because it would be a useless exercise. You have your position and I’m not likely to change it because you are obviously touchy and by the turn of “I’m the writer, you’re the reader” seem to think you’re hot stuff. So you can stay king of your sandbox.

    You want to be a critic, you have to weather criticism.

    Lastly, if you want to “discourage” someone, don’t engage. That’s what professionals do. Good luck to you.

    P.S. Regular people gave the movie a 7/10 so more people liked it than disliked it.

  • Leo

    LOL at this whole review and agree entirely with Josh and Luke

    Also **none-existent should be non-existent – for a scanty 4-ish paragraph review having a typo is a little bit delegitimizing

    Projecting what the actor thinks about the material – which is entirely a subjective and theoretical exercise – is beyond your means as a reviewer. You yet again delegitimize yourself. Please don’t enter into the psychology of the actor in the future, unless you have sources to back your interpretation. Using sources to back claims that are not opinions is usually taught in grade school and then throughout formal education – it is a shame you somehow missed that.

    Also this sentence is ungodly. Please. Talk about the movie going on too long – were you trying to compete with it here? – “The usual flair and personality, as well as that wonderful charm, is here but the film sadly fluffs its lines with the character concerning the depth and layers that emotionally plagues him in such a torturous almost destructive manner.”

    This is verging on nonsensical. Periods are your friends.

    “The Highwaymen is just missed opportunity after missed opportunity here and the end result is deeply misguided and bland venture, with two leads that don’t fit the bill with horrible chemistry and a director who has absolutely no idea what he’s doing behind the camera or formulate an inviting or entertaining picture; ending up with a film that evokes a sense of patronising parody than anything else.”

    This sentence is in itself a deeply misguided and bland venture – it’s a hack job, not a review. The movie, also, does not – by any means – evoke a sense of patronizing parody. That you disliked the movie is one thing. Saying it evoked a “sense” of parody, which is defined as imitation of a style with DELIBERATE exaggeration for COMIC EFFECT? Off-base and frankly just a sloppy attempt to discredit it.

    Also saying an established director has “absolutely no idea what he’s doing behind the camera”? The cinematography has been reviewed widely as notable. Are you aware that cinematography and directing are different? This review leads me to conclude you are uneducated about the medium you’re choosing to critique. I wasted my time more by reading this than I ever would have watching any movie.