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The Hi-Lo Country (1998)

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Two cowboys have their friendship tested when they fall for the same girl.


Stephen Frears


Max Evans (novel), Walon Green (screenplay)
4 wins & 4 nominations. See more awards »



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Cast overview, first billed only:
Billy Crudup ... Pete Calder
Woody Harrelson ... Big Boy Matson
Cole Hauser ... Little Boy Matson
Enrique Castillo ... Levi Gomez
Darren E. Burrows ... Billy Harte (as Darren Burrows)
Jacob Vargas ... Delfino Mondragon
Robert Knott ... Jack Couffer
Sam Elliott ... Jim Ed Love
Sandy Baron ... Henchman
Patricia Arquette ... Mona Birk
John Diehl ... Les Birk
Craig Carter Craig Carter ... Art Logan
Penélope Cruz ... Josepha O'Neil
Walter C. Hall Walter C. Hall ... Auctioneer
James Gammon ... Hoover Young


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 Anonymous

Plot Summary | Add Synopsis


A woman like Mona can drive men to extremes.


Drama | Romance | Western

Motion Picture Rating (MPAA)

Rated R for some sexuality, a scene of violence, and for brief language | See all certifications »


Official Sites:



UK | Germany | USA



Release Date:

22 January 1999 (USA) See more »

Also Known As:

Hi-Lo Country See more »

Filming Locations:

Bernal, New Mexico, USA See more »


Box Office

Opening Weekend USA:

$17,712, 3 January 1999, Limited Release

Gross USA:

$163,810, 14 March 1999
See more on IMDbPro »

Company Credits

Show more on IMDbPro »

Technical Specs


Sound Mix:

DTS | Dolby Digital | SDDS


Color (Technicolor)

Aspect Ratio:

2.35 : 1
See full technical specs »

Did You Know?


Having spent a week volunteering for Mother Teresa's children's sanctuary, Penélope Cruz donated her entire salary for this film to the charity. See more »


After Billy urinates on Steve Shaw and the lawyer in the bar, different shots do not show any urine on the floor or table where they had been sitting. See more »


Pete Calder: People still drive cattle to rail heads.
Jim Ed Love: Only in the movies.
See more »

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User Reviews

Nice to see a good head of cattle being driven through the western landscape again, in what is essentially a rather tacky melodrama.
6 September 1999 | by milf-2See all my reviews

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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