I was in a musical on Broadway called The Life. It was the last musical produced on Broadway by the legendary Cy Coleman and written by David Newman. What does any of that have to do with Bonnie and Clyde? David Newman and Robert Benton wrote the script for the Academy Award nominated film Bonnie and Clyde. Now, being someone from Missouri, I have heard numerous tales and folklore about Bonnie and Clyde my whole life.
In the 1967 film adaptation, the law enforcement officials who chased the fugitives (otherwise known as the Texas Rangers) were depicted as bumbling keystone cops who didn’t know they left and from their right. In real life, Frank Hamer was one of those Texas Rangers. Hamer, his family and the Rangers have harbored quite a bit of resentment about how they were all portrayed in that version.
Well, Netflix has righted the wrong developing a story strictly from Hamer and Texas Ranger point of view in the form of The Highwaymen. Starring Kevin Costner, Woody Harrelson and Kathy Bates, we learn that Hamer was in retirement while recruited by the Rangers to specifically take down Bonnie And Clyde.
Bonnie and Clyde were treated more with the fanfare like Hollywood starlets than cold-blooded, bank robbing murderers. We learn that red beans and cabbage were code for when the two would return to the Barrow’s hometown, Bonnie had a limp, their poetry was published with the fanfare of a Pulitzer Prize winning author and that an old school mate was on the team of officials that ultimately took them down.
Unlike the 1967 film, The Highwaymen depicts the intricate execution of Bonnie Clyde through the eyes, friendship and collaboration of Frank Hamer and Maney Gault. Having took 15 years to bring this film to life and directed by Austin native John Lee Hancock, The Highwaymen comes off as a modern-day Crucible which contain many more ebbs and fewer flows.
If it were not for the chemistry and pairing of Kevin Costner with Woody Harrelson, I don’t think this story would have resonated with me as much. Having screened this at SXSW and attending the Q&A afterwards, it is never lost on me that Kevin Costner is one of the smartest, most humble movie stars in Hollywood. He took his time to let the audience know that our support of him and his work never go unappreciated. A sentiment echoed by his co-stars Bates, Harrelson and director John Lee Hancock.
Do Hamer and Gault get vindicated in this version? Absolutely. Is it worth a look? Well, If you are fascinated with the legend of Bonnie and Clyde, you will be intrigued by The Highwaymen and the supposed truth about the day Bonnie and Clyde met their demise. Streaming on Netflix right now, The Highwaymen paces a little slow until mid-way through, but convincingly illustrates just how calculated Hamer and Gault were in taking down two of the most legendary fugitives in American history.