The Highwaymen is the Bonnie and Clyde story told from the perspective of the two ex Texas Rangers who were hired to end the outlaws reign of terror. Despite Governor “Ma” Ferguson’s (Kathy Bates) dislike for the disbanded Rangers she relents to requests to hire the men after yet another slew of murders. Frank Hamer (Kevin Costner) is the retired man hunter brought in to do the job and he seeks out his ex partner Maney Gault (Woody Harrelson) to assist him.
This film is as old fashioned as the men hired to take down the Barrow gang. Eschewing the glamour of the infamous outlaws to show us the mundane slow paced detective work put in by the men on their trail. In fact where it can it avoids even showing us the outlaws faces.
Costner has always encapsulated the crusading hero who is driven by what is right and this role is no different. If his characters from The Untouchables and JFK had grown into creaky retirement this is probably not far from where they would be. Married to a good woman who doesn’t want him to take that one last job but knows she can not stand in his way. Haunted by actions in his past but always spurred on by his belief that they were just.
Harrelson’s character is equally handmade for him. He has the gift of the gab and is far more likely to elicit the help of criminals and lawmen alike, although he is far more damaged from his past.
In amongst the grind of tracking the gang and the partners easing back into their relationship there is some minor moments of fun when it explores the ravages of age (Gault needs to relieve himself regularly whilst Hamer does not move like he used to) as well as some excitement about new policing techniques such as wire taps and radios in police cars.
It is a film that is thoroughly entertaining and immersive but one that is also hard to recommend given the very purposeful lack of fireworks. Workmanlike and efficient in telling its story, fine acting performances without being stand out and impressive period visuals.