The Highwaymen 2019 ***

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Originally developed as a reteaming for Paul Newman and Robert Redford, this project was re-nosed with younger stars as part of Netflix’s on-going scramble for content. It’s obvious why they exhumed this project; The Highwayman has a fresh slant on a familiar story; it’s about the men who caught Bonnie and Clyde. While the 1967 film reflected the notion of Bonnie and Clyde as folk heroes, and dealt with the myth to good effect. John Lee Hancock’s thriller de-mythologises them, and presents them as anonymous, drug-addled and violent critters, almost entirely off-camera. Instead the focus is on Kevin Costner and Woody Harrelson as the two Texas Rangers brought in by Texas state governor Miriam ‘Ma’ Ferguson (Kathy Bates) to hunt down the bank-robbers. The template is Costner’s The Untouchables, with a tight focus on frustrated men reaching within themselves for the strength to fight crime. The Highwaymen is some straight-up macho posturing, high on weapons, law, cigarettes and toughness, and it’ll be snapped up by older audiences who find the PC nature of modern films too weak to stomach. There’s lots to enjoy in two big star performances, a strong sense of period detail (as you’d expect from a $50 million production) and a decidedly old-school ‘respect the law’ POV.

https://www.netflix.com/title/80200571

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Kingpin 1996 ***

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Anyone who has read Peter Farrelly’s book The Comedy Writer will understand something about the darkness that underpins the cheerfully bad-taste comedies he makes with his brother Bobby. Kingpin is a good example of their tragic-comic style, with Woody Harrelson as Roy Munson, whose bowling career is ended when he loses a hand. He joins forces with Amish man Ishmael (Randy Quaid) and attempts an unlikely comeback, with competition with bewigged star player Ernie McCracken (Bill Murray) their ultimate goal. The acting talent involves suggests that Kingpin could be a serious, melancholy drama, but instead it’s a silly, good-natured and boisterous parody of sports-movie clichés, with Murray in typically good form.