Good Guys, Bad Guys and "The Highwaymen"
One minute you’re watching a Netflix movie and thinking it’s an enjoyable way to spend an evening. The next you’re reading movie reviewers who are sneering at you. They say the film only appeals to aging, Dirty Harry-type conservatives.
A little harsh, if you ask me. Is it really necessary to sniff around for politics everywhere? Can’t we ever just watch a movie for its entertainment value? And must these critics always insult people with wrinkles?
I’m talking about “The Highwaymen,” a new Netflix film starring Kevin Costner and Woody Harrelson. They play the retired Texas Rangers who were reactivated in 1934 to get Bonnie Parker and Clyde Barrow.
It’s a true story, by the way. The lawmen who ambushed the couple really were tough Rangers, past their prime, who were able to do what J. Edgar Hoover’s much younger G-Men couldn’t: track down and kill two celebrated sociopaths.
For some reason, this movie has really gotten under the skin of many film snobs who have called it “odious and dimwitted,” “vengeful, murderous” and “politically terrifying.”
All because the director didn’t fall into the trap of giving us Bonnie and Clyde as lovable, romantic figures. The 1967 movie, ”Bonnie and Clyde,” which starred the rakish Warren Beatty and the stunning Faye Dunaway had the audience cheering for the bad guys. Shoot, the movie trailers for “Bonnie and Clyde” proclaimed: “They’re young. They’re in love. They kill people.”
“The Highwaymen” wants you to pull for the lawmen. Bonnie and Clyde are portrayed as merciless criminals who weirdly captured the imagination of the American masses during the Great Depression. They robbed banks, dressed well and killed cops during their crime spree. They were bad people.
The aging Rangers are complicated, conflicted guys, struggling with the violence in their pasts. They’re clear on their current assignment, though: Find Bonnie and Clyde and kill them. No arrests for these two. No trial.
And that’s the way it went down.
Apparently only the elderly - like me - could possibly enjoy this cool interpretation of the Bonnie and Clyde story.
“What looks like a can't-miss concept -- the aging lawmen who hunted down Bonnie and Clyde -- yields a dutiful, uninspired movie in "The Highwaymen," pairing Kevin Costner and Woody Harrelson as the taciturn Texas Rangers called out of retirement, which roughly approximates what will likely be the film's target demo,”
Even after that little slice of ageism I was unprepared for the bile spewed by a reviewer for The Guardian who claimed the film exists, “to affirm that these men and the men like them are still empowered and relevant. The raison d’être of the microgenre I have previously termed “geriaction” is propping up its chosen heroes’ crumbling male egos; to prove he’s still got it.”
I could take this reviewer more seriously if he didn’t casually drop in a line about the “sleek Jaguar” Texas Ranger Frank Hamer drove in the movie.
It was a Ford. The hood ornament on a 1934 Ford was a Greyhound, not a cat.
I know this because I’m old. And observant.