"A Modern Day Western"


What You Need To Know:

HELL OR HIGH WATER is a modern day Western. Set in West Texas, it’s about two brothers robbing banks and a nearly retired Texas Ranger chasing them. Chris Pine stars as Toby, a law-abiding citizen who decides to take action when a deceitful local bank tries to take the family land belonging to his estranged sons. Toby enlists the help of his criminal brother to rob the bank’s branches to keep the land. This leads to a violent confrontation between the brothers and the police, including a Texas Ranger played by Jeff Bridges.

HELL OR HIGH WATER is a riveting drama, with a solemn ending. It’s about family, friendship and the choices to make to create a better future. The movie’s mixed worldview has an element of moral relativism. For example, the ultimate bad guys are the bankers. So, Toby doesn’t show regret for the robberies he commits. The movie also has some positive moral and even Christian elements, however. MOVIEGUIDE® advises extreme caution for HELL OR HIGH WATER because of its mixed worldview, foul language, brief sexual content, and sudden explicit violence.


(PaPa, FR, B, C, P, Acap, LLL, VV, SS, N, AA, MM) Strong mixed pagan worldview with moral relativism and sympathetic characters who break the law and even get away with it, some moral elements where Texas Ranger try to catch the sympathetic criminals and where father tries to create a better future for his sons, plus some Christian elements include two Christian rangers (though one is quite offensive), one ranger watches a TV preacher but the other makes fun of the TV preacher, and churches are visible, police officers become sympathetic as the movie progresses, and banks are the ultimate bad guys, but they are trying to cheat a family out of their land because it has oil on it; at least 65 obscenities (including about 30 “f” words) and seven profanities; strong sudden violence with shoot outs, explosions, fist fights, four different people are shot, each with blood splatter; brief depicted sex in foreground with sensitive areas out of focus or blocked; upper male nudity and some female nudity during sex scene, though no graphic areas seen; lots of drinking and drunkenness; no smoking or drugs but a man vapes; and, moral relativism, multiple racist insults, main characters are bank robbers, and dysfunctional family.

More Detail:

HELL OR HIGH WATER is a modern day Western of sorts set in West Texas about two brothers robbing banks and a nearly retired Texas Ranger trying to apprehend them.

The movie opens with the two men robbing two banks, one right after the other. Toby (Chris Pine) has always been a law-abiding citizen, while struggling to make ends meet to pay his ex-wife for child support for his two teenage sons. His brother Tanner (Ben Foster), however, just recently got out of jail after serving a long sentence for shooting their abusive father. After their mother passes away and the bank prepares to seize their family land, which just happens to have oil on it, Toby pulls together a plan to rob the bank and save the land for his two boys.

After robbing the first few banks, Marcus (Jeff Bridges), a Texas Ranger getting ready to retire, sets off after the two robbers looking for one last exciting case. All the while, Marcus verbally insults his Hispanic Native American partner, Alberto, to the nth degree.

As Toby and Tanner get closer to their goal amount of purchasing the land from the Texas bank with the bank’s own money, they look at their life in retrospect. This reflection focuses on how they each made different life decisions.

This all leads to a violent confrontation between the two brothers and the police, which results in a bloody mess.

HELL OR HIGH WATER is a riveting drama with a solemn ending about family, friendship and the choices to make to create a better future. Chris Pine and Jeff Bridges are terrific. The movie also benefits from a solid script and restrained direction that never ramps up the excitement too much, but instead delivers its dramatic payoffs in the after effects of the conflict.

The audience roots for the brothers most of the movie, but a shift occurs near the end where the viewer’s sympathy goes to Marcus, the Texas Ranger. It all seems like fun and games until people start dying from Tanner’s trigger-happy hand, and the consequences for these actions become clear. The movie has an element of moral relativism. For example, the ultimate bad guys in the movie are the bankers. Consequently, Toby doesn’t show regret for the robberies, even though his brother killed multiple people in the process. Despite this, the movie also generates some sympathy for the police officers, who are also Christians. Sympathy is also generated for a father who desperately doesn’t want his sons to end up in the same moral and financial rut as he.

That said, the movie’s moral relativism toward the bank robberies mitigates its positive qualities. HELL OR HIGH WATER also contains lots of strong foul language, brief sexual content and some sudden explicit violence. This excessive combination in HELL OR HIGH WATER warrants extreme caution.

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