Overview: ‘The Highwaymen’ Interrogates Why We’re Drawn to a Pair of Killers

A dramatic telling of true American crime, Netflix’s The Highwaymen recounts the 100-day journey of the Texas Rangers who killed Bonnie Parker and Clyde Barrow and ended their crime sprees. It’s a easy film—the great guys efficiently thwart the unhealthy guys—however this cops and robbers movie additionally has a a lot deeper narrative, one which makes the viewers query their private definitions of justice and morality.

Inside its story, The Highwaymen asks whether or not the unfavourable results of out of doors circumstances—abject poverty, dysfunctional home life—have any bearing on an individual’s soul. Are people inherently good or unhealthy? Is anybody good if everyone seems to be killing?

The Highwaymen begins with the Texas Rangers recruited to place an finish to the Barrow Gang, a rotating roster of Bonnie and Clyde’s family and friends members who rained terror on Midwestern highways on the peak of the Nice Despair. Whereas most Individuals had been struggling to eke out a meager existence on this interval, the Barrow Gang raised their socioeconomic standing with a little bit intimidation and some rounds of ammunition. The gang was on the lam for 2 years earlier than the Texas authorities conceded to place a pair of “man killers” on the hunt.

Retired Texas Ranger Captain Frank “Poncho” Hamer (performed by the not-so-agile-anymore Kevin Costner) was recognized for his resolute private understanding of proper and improper. Right here, Frank recruits his outdated good friend Maney Gault (a morally-conscious and comedic Woody Harrelson) to assist in the hunt. They be part of officers from Texas and Louisiana to plan and perform a lethal ambush on the couple.

The movie by no means makes gentle of the Barrow Gang’s heinous crimes, but it surely does painting the astounding real-life public reactions to Bonnie and Clyde’s actions. Many individuals had been enamored with the couple, describing them as heroic trendy Robin Hoods, and The Highwaymen does an amazing job reinforcing the folklore surrounding the younger lovers. We don’t even see their faces till their deadly finish.

For practically two hours, Bonnie and Clyde are legendary figures. The viewers isn’t certain whether or not to be in awe or disgust of their capability to outrun the legislation. In a single scene, the gang’s automotive is mobbed by “fans” clamoring to get an autograph or handshake. It’s eerily just like the modern-day media hounding a B-list celeb or disgraced politician. 

In distinction to the general public’s reverence, Costner’s Frank exhibits little to no compassion towards the criminals, and he stands agency in his fee to kill. Throughout one tense scene, Henry Barrow, Clyde’s father, paints a wretched image of how residing in poverty affected his son’s ethical compass. Henry defends Clyde’s youthful delinquency however finally pleads for Frank to ship a swift finish to the crime spree with no matter drive is critical. The gang needed to be stopped, however the dialog is a reminder these criminals had been human beings with hearts, minds and souls.

Whereas the movie portrays Frank as resolute in his mission, Harrelson’s Maney grapples with the ethics of capturing a girl and ambushing the couple in chilly blood. Early within the Rangers’ on-screen journey, Maney feedback, “I never shoot a man without fair warning,” to which Frank retorts, “Well Lord knows [Clyde] does.” Maney replies, “Well Lord knows that’s what separates us from him.” In a enterprise that requires capturing to kill, Maney seeks justification for homicide, however Frank is unable to supply any rational or ethical protection. The viewers is left to evaluate the projected definition of justice: Criminals ought to obtain punishment equal to their crimes.

In actual life as within the movie, Bonnie and Clyde’s deaths intensified their standing as celebrities. Greater than 20,000 individuals got here to Bonnie Parker’s funeral, with related numbers turning up at Clyde’s. The couple’s stolen automotive, riddled with over 130 rounds of ammunition, toured the US as a macabre attraction at amusement parks and state gala’s. Individuals wished to brush elbows with the criminals’ fame whatever the destruction they wrought. In the previous couple of minutes of the movie, we watch throngs of individuals flock to get a have a look at the lifeless couple. The Highwaymen forces viewers to contemplate why we have a good time some immoral actions (Bonnie and Clyde’s capability to evade seize) and condemn others (how Frank and Maney introduced an finish to their romantic crime spree).

Did Bonnie and Clyde’s capital crimes deserve capital punishment? They had been robbers and murderers who appeared to point out no regret for his or her felony actions. And but, they had been additionally human beings. Eternally up for debate is whether or not the lads who killed Bonnie and Clyde had been proper or improper in delivering justice by their bloodbath of the notorious couple. Somewhat than feed an opinion to the viewers, The Highwaymen highlights the risks of permitting public figures to dwell above the legislation and forces us to wrestle with perceptions of justice and morality. A easy cops and robbers movie, this isn’t.

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