CHENNAI: Bonnie Parker and Clyde Barrow were notorious robbers and killers, but they also became folk heroes during America’s Great Depression.
Several films have been made about them, but the best-known version was 1967’s “Bonnie and Clyde,” directed by Arthur Penn and starring Warren Beatty and Faye Dunaway. Now Netflix has offered yet another look at the cold-blooded pair in “The Highwaymen.”
What is refreshing about this movie is its approach. It pushes Bonnie and Clyde to the background except for a brief scene at the start, when we see her help him to escape from Eastham Prison Farm in 1934. Apart from this daring breakout, carried out in a hail of bullets fired from a machine gun by Bonnie, we see the two only at the end.
“The Highwaymen” is pretty much the story of two aging rangers who are called back by the Texas governor, Miriam Ferguson (Kathy Bates), to hunt down the pair.
The rangers, Maney Gault (Woody Harrelson) and Frank Hamer (Kevin Costner), have a clear brief to kill the fugitives, not to take them alive. And in just over two hours, director John Lee Hancock narrates the account of how Hamer and Gault drive through the central parts of the US, looking for the elusive couple. The differences in their outlook (one of them hates shooting down women) causes irritation between them, while providing humour for viewers.
Hancock and writer John Fusco keep their drama at an even pace, not drawing on the starry glamor from Harrelson or Costner. Despite an almost unrealistic expectation from the administration, the two highwaymen, inspired by real figures, are presented as ordinary souls. They are no heroes. This gives the film a fair degree of credibility, rectifying the aura of mystique created by the 1960s Hollywood production.