Certificate: 15

Running Time: 102 mins

Star Rating: 4/5

HARSH times call for desperate measures in David Mackenzie's riveting crime thriller set in contemporary West Texas, where avaricious, corporate-driven America has ravaged close-knit communities. Hell Or High Water cranks up tension, courtesy of a lean script by Taylor Sheridan, about a familiar morality tale of world-weary cops and robbers with a touching portrait of brotherly love in dire straits.

Northumberland-born director Mackenzie immerses us in the daily sweat-soaked grind of richly drawn characters, who believe their only course of action is to don ski masks and strike back at financial institutions, which have crippled friends and God-fearing neighbours. Toby Howard (Chris Pine) is determined to save his family's Texas ranch from foreclosure by robbing banks with his fiery-tempered brother, Tanner (Ben Foster). Their larcenous activities pique the interest of cantankerous Texas Ranger Marcus Hamilton (Jeff Bridges), who is poised to retire after years of dedicated service and his half-Comanche partner Alberto Parker (Gil Birmingham).

Hell Or High Water is another triumph for Mackenzie. Pine is a revelation in a role that ignores his pretty boy good looks, while Foster burrows beneath the chapped skin of his hot-headed ex-con. Bridges delivers a masterclass in gruff cynicism and his verbal jousting with Birmingham is peppered with cracking one-liners. Delicate shades of grey separating heroes and villains compel us to ignore our own moral compasses and root for hunters and the hunted.