Michael Reynolds is a rich oncologist who has a one hundred seventy-five thousand dollar sports car, a multi-million dollar house, and a new boost in his career. Brandon "Blue" Monroe is a ... See full summary »
An intimate story of the enduring bond of friendship between two hard-living men, set against a sweeping backdrop: the American West, post-World War II, in its twilight. Pete and Big Boy are masters of the prairie, but ultimately face trickier terrain: the human heart.Written by
Nice to see a good head of cattle being driven through the western landscape again, in what is essentially a rather tacky melodrama.
Great to see a new western and this one was particularly good to look at: capturing the flat, wide western country with all its beauty and natural dangers and contrasting it nicely with the badly-lit, cramped and emotionally charged interior spaces of its bars, farmsteads and honky-tonks. Outside there might be sun, drought, wind and snow, all largely visited at nature's whim; inside there's all sorts of very human dangers, including: infidelity, cheating, financial and legal corruption, and witchcraft - which can all be largely seen as a breaking down of loyalty and trust. War, the demands of the market-place and changing times in general, are shown to have bought a dislocation to the traditional rural certainties of conduct and order; the same forces splitting both the community at large and individual families.
Ed Buscombe's masterly review in Sight and Sound articulated my own slight sense of disappointment with the film. He rightly saw that the character of Big Boy, as played by Woody Harrelson, fails to convince that he is worthy of the strength of love and loyalty that Pete and others feel for him. As Buscombe says, his antics too often subside into a charmless boorishness - contrast this say with Kristofferson's Billy the Kid for Peckinpah, whose behaviour is equally wild but we never doubt his basic goodness and accept the affection in which he is generally held.
The film's recreation of the1940s was very nicely done: with terrific locations and just enough of the right artefacts to suggest the period, rather than an over-dressed museum tableau. The film cleverly slips between that contemporary world and an oppositional timelessness in the unchanging rhythm of the cowboy's life. I liked the way the film's characters acknowledge the anachronistic effort required to follow the cowboy life in 1940s post war USA: "I hear you're having an old fashioned cattle drive" Mona says to Pete, and earlier when Pete suggests to Jim Ed Love, the cattle baron, that "people still drive their cattle to the railhead" he replies "only in the movies".
More than a nod then to Red River, with its fascination with the changing demands of the market place and the effects those changes bring to ranch and cowboy. At heart HiLo is not much more than a rather tacky melodrama but its still very watchable: its lovingly shot, it just about keeps the western mythology alive and it has some great songs. It also has good supporting performances from Billy Crudup (Pete), Patricia Arquette (Mona) and Rosaleen Linehan (Mrs Big Boy), in particular.
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