|Mr. Foster and Mr. Pine.|
It is Mackenzie's directing and Taylor Sheridan's script, though, that are the real standouts of Hell or High Water. Both have done excellent work here. This is a tightly plotted, emotionally moving film that surprises even when it seems to move in predictable ways, and that leaves room for deep character development even as it often functions in a high-octane, heavy action mode. It's just excellently done.
* * *
And then last night I opted for something sentimental. A based-on-a-true-story kind of conquer-your-demons thing about a Māori chess champion dealing with schizophrenia and poverty. I watched The Dark Horse for its star, Cliff Curtis, whom I almost always love, but I was gritting my teeth in preparation for the film to be "inspirational" and "heartwarming". I am almost never interested in this kind of sentimental narrative.
This is a story about a down-on-his-luck man who gets a second chance at life teaching chess to poor kids, many of them homeless, orphaned, and hungry. Meanwhile, he must battle poverty as well as his own mental health, which is precarious, and deal with his brother's masculinist, violent treatment of his nephew Mana, who comes to depend on his unstable uncle.
But The Dark Horse is better than its genre at almost every turn. Curtis is good, even if the plot is full of clichés, and he is supported admirably by Wayne Hapi, Kirk Torrance, and especially James Rolleston (who is really fantastic). I really liked The Dark Horse and found it engaging throughout, even if I already knew all of the moves it was going to make.