The Highwaymen is a crime drama that producer Casey Silver unsuccessfully tried to make for fifteen years, with the idea of starring Paul Newman and Robert Redford. Netflix bought the rights last year, entrusting the script to John Fusco, and the direction to John Lee Hancock.
The plot of the film follows the untold story of the tandem of detectives who arrested Bonnie and Clyde. Since numerous FBI agents, thousands of police officers and modern forensic technology were not enough to catch the most notorious criminals in the country, two former Texas Rangers get a free hand. Frank Hammer (Kevin Costner) and Manny Gault (Woody Harrelson) must rely on their instincts and old-school skills to get the job done…
Bonnie Parker and Clyde Burrow arrived at a time when the media was looking for shocking stories, and the crimes of the common man and girl were certainly shocking. Radio shows stopped their programs because of them, they filled the front pages of newspapers, and ordinary people saw them as celebrities, maybe even heroes.
Since it was the time of the Great Depression, many people were left without property because of the banks and the government, so they were forced to move and live on the edge of poverty. Bonnie and Clyde robbed banks, and widespread rumors about them made them a modern version of Robin Hood. Those rumors didn’t hide that they were criminals and murderers, but people were more interested in popularity than facts.
Opposite the famous couple are unknown and humble heroes, who do their duty, without a desire for fame. The two of them are aware that they are the most suitable for the execution of the work that is in front of them. The script presents them as traditional, confused representatives of the law, who do not understand why people celebrate criminals. Tradition has always been on the side of the law, or rather the people who fought for justice in a lawless land, and now it seems as if they are criminals.
Even the script somewhat makes them characters unworthy of Bonnie and Clyde’s conflict, as if Frank and Manny can’t rise above the near-legendary status the criminal duo has. They are only here to arrest and we don’t have a bigger picture of them, except that they are the people who caught the famous criminals. This is supported by the fact that their families are not mentioned as soon as they start work, which I understand as an acknowledgment that the lives of the protagonists are unimportant, except for the part when they were searching with criminals.
Kevin Costner and Woody Harrelson give decent performances as people from the past who struggle to adapt to the present. I liked that their characters seem down-to-earth, while Bonnie and Clyde are like shadows to them, who run away from them as soon as they get close to them. The Rangers are long past the time when they were capable of old fashioned manhunts, they are not as technologically equipped as the feds and they have no interstate jurisdiction. However, their keen instincts and decades of experience have not left them.