A pair of police officers come out of retirement to catch the infamous outlaws Bonnie & Clyde.
Approaching 100 years since their demise in a hail of bullets, ‘Bonnie & Clyde’ still inspire intrigue and have formed an indelible part of the American psyche. ‘The Highwaymen’ is a film that returns to their story, although in this case the notorious criminals remain in the background to allow a focus on two retired lawmen who led the chase to hunt them down. Those men are played by Kevin Costner and Woody Harrelson, and the film is directed by John Lee Hancock (‘Saving Mr. Banks’, ‘The Founder’ and ‘The Blind Side’), so it’s a shame that this is unfortunately a rather dull and plodding affair that wastes the talent on both sides of the camera.
The year is 1934, and amidst the Great Depression that followed the Wall Street crash of 1929, a young couple are travelling across states and robbing banks, leading to a statewide manhunt. Part of the intrigue with Clyde Barrow and Bonnie Parker comes from the public perception, with a lot of ordinary citizens supportive of their bank robbing exploits in light of the banks complicity in the 1929 crash. Their story has been told countless times on screen, most notably in Arthur Penn’s seminal 1967 movie, so it makes sense to switch the focus if this story is to be revisited, but ‘The Highwaymen’ doesn’t have interesting enough source material to justify a bloated runtime of 2 hours plus. We follow Costner and Harrelson’s characters as they search for clues, rough up unhelpful civilians and gradually gather the details to close in on the duo, but this has the workmanlike feel of a TV movie and there’s limited tension as we know how this story ends. Costner and Harrelson are good actors and they’re fine here with little to work with, but I didn’t particularly care about their characters, their lives and ‘The Highwaymen’ bores too much for a film about a manhunt.
‘The Highwaymen’ is a disappointing misfire from John Lee Hancock, who has made far better films in the past, and it fails to add any new insight into the ‘Bonnie & Clyde’ legend. I’d suggest revisiting the 1967 classic instead.
Directed By: John Lee Hancock
Starring: Kevin Costner, Woody Harrelson, Kathy Bates, John Carroll Lynch, Kim Dickens, Thomas Mann, William Sadler, W. Earl Brown, Emily Brobst and Edward Bossert