The Highwaymen is the story of Frank Hamer and Maney Gault, the two former Texas Rangers who tracked down and killed Bonnie Parker and Clyde Barrow, notorious bank robbers and murderers of the 1930s. The film stars Kevin Costner and Woody Harrelson and is directed by John Lee Hancock.
Like most films made around people at the seminal events in history, you know how this film ends. You can look it up on Wikipedia. Honestly, I would find a deep dive on Wikipedia far more interesting than watching this film. I have no taste for police procedurals or manhunt stories that are derivative of everything that has come before. The Highwaymen is only tropes, cliches, uninspired quips, and maudlin scenes about these men who have seen horror and violence. The film is nothing, but the same in every way.
What I wish could have been explored are the facets of this story that have a bearing on today's world. I wish they had had conversations about the nature of celebrity and the toxicity of that culture. There are a few scenes that scratch the surface, but not enough to get through on a deeper level. Though, the last scene as a mob surrounds and grabs at the corpses of Bonnie and Clyde as they're towed through the town gets close. It's too late in the film to have the impact it should if the film had had more of a through line for it.
Yet, I wonder about the choice to not reveal Bonnie and Clyde themselves, their faces or their personalities until the very end. It's almost as if the filmmakers made their comment that way, having the violence they perpetrated live in the wide and medium shots rather than up close and personal. It's like the film refuses to give two of the most famous criminals in U.S. history their fifteen minutes of fame. It was the most interesting choice of the film to keep the subjects of the manhunt separate, but ever present.
I hesitate to give any more thought to this film and if I'm lucky, like all the other mediocre films I've seen, it will leave my mind as soon as I go to sleep tonight, but I know people like this type of story. Good guys win, bad guys lose. The heroes are tacit and stoic defenders of freedom and the villains are hedonistic sociopaths that could be lurking around any corner. If you're looking for a simple tale that feels overly familiar, this may be a film you want to watch, but if you like a new take on an old story, I would skip this one and revisit Arthur Penn's masterful Bonnie and Clyde from 1967 as it deals with three dimensional people and has a message about the pervasive violence we consume.