The Highwaymen (film)
Official release poster
|Directed by||John Lee Hancock|
|Produced by||Casey Silver|
|Written by||John Fusco|
|Music by||Thomas Newman|
|Edited by||Robert Frazen|
Casey Silver Productions
The Highwaymen is a 2019 American period crime drama film directed by John Lee Hancock and written by John Fusco. The film stars Kevin Costner and Woody Harrelson as Frank Hamer and Maney Gault, two former Texas Rangers who attempt to track down and apprehend notorious criminals Bonnie and Clyde in the 1930s. Kathy Bates, John Carroll Lynch, Kim Dickens, Thomas Mann and William Sadler also star.
The film had been in development hell for many years, with producer Casey Silver looking into the project as early as 2005. Originally pitched by Fusco as a possible Paul Newman and Robert Redford project, the film began development at Universal Pictures but never came to fruition. In February 2018, it was reported Netflix had picked up the rights to the film and that Costner and Harrelson would star. Filming took place later that month and in March, shooting around Louisiana and at several historical sites, including the road where Bonnie and Clyde were killed.
The Highwaymen had a limited theatrical release in the United States on March 15, 2019 before being released digitally on March 29, 2019 on Netflix.
In 1934, after two years on the run as robbers and murderers, the criminals Bonnie and Clyde break several associates out of the Eastham Prison Farm in Texas. In response, Texas Department of Corrections Chief Lee Simmons persuades Governor "Ma" Ferguson to hire former Texas Ranger Frank Hamer to track down the criminals independent of the Bureau of Investigation (FBI). Ferguson and her staff are skeptical, having disbanded the Rangers for more advanced units, but she reluctantly allows Simmons to go ahead. Hamer initially hesitates due to his family but both he and his wife accept after hearing about a devastating shootout in Missouri involving the infamous pair. Hamer's former partner, Benjamin Maney Gault, joins Hamer after a long period of being unemployed and living in hardship.
The FBI has been wiretapping the fugitives' families for a while. Hamer and Gault get access to the files and conclude they are likely making their way "home" to Dallas and drive there; shortly after arriving, they see a man throw a bottle at Bonnie's mother's house and then a boy picking it up. Suspicious, they give chase, but the boy escapes. FBI agents arrive, telling them that Clyde is believed to be in Brownsville, hinting in a snide way that the "retired Rangers" should stay out of the operation.
The Rangers brush off the FBI and meet with Dallas Sheriff "Smoot" Schmid, who introduces them to Deputy Sheriff Ted Hinton, a childhood friend of Bonnie and Clyde who can identify them on sight, so Hamer and Gault decide to bring him along, although they are concerned over Hinton's previous hesitations to fire on the pair, especially Bonnie, who he was sweet on as a child. The next day, they hear of a double police murder committed by Bonnie and Clyde near Grapevine. Investigating the site with Hinton, Hamer is appalled by the pair's brutality and emphasizes it to Hinton. They also find that Bonnie was accompanied by a white rabbit. Hinton tells them it is likely a present for a family member.
Leaving Hinton behind, Hamer decides to break his jurisdiction and drives to Oklahoma. Getting gas at a gas station, Hamer questions a gas attendant who makes it clear he is sympathetic to the criminals, but Hamer attacks him and at gunpoint the attendent says the gang came through and were headed to a migrant camp. Once there, the two learn from a local girl that the gang were there and investigate the criminals' campsite. Continuing their pursuit, the Rangers hear on the radio of two more murdered police officers about 20 miles away. They make their way to the site, but since they are outside their authority, the FBI and local police bar them passing the roadblock. Frustrated, Hamer unexpectedly drives around the roadblock and continues to Coffeyville, Kansas, believing the Barrow gang will stop there for supplies. Bonnie and Clyde do drive by, but as they close in for a shot, adoring crowds surround Bonnie and Clyde's car, cheering on the criminals and blocking the Rangers. They give chase, catching up outside the town, but Bonnie and Clyde turn off into a dirt field and kick up so much dust that despite briefly exchanging shots, the gang evades the Rangers.
Trying to pick up their trail the next day, Hamer is told that Clyde had breakfast in Amarillo and returned to Dallas to find out the white rabbit had been delivered to Bonnie's family. The Rangers go to the (business) garage of Henry Barrow, Clyde's father, where Hamer confronts him and the father tearfully asks Hamer to "end it" for his family, knowing his son would never be taken alive.
Hamer follows up on a plan by Gault to have Simmons furlough a prisoner, Wade McNabb, associated with the gang, hoping to draw them out. While Hamer interrogates McNabb in a bar, Gault is threatened in the restroom by three thugs sympathetic to the gang, but knocks down one and holds the other two at gunpoint until he leaves. Hearing that Bonnie is due to meet a hairdresser the next day, the Rangers keep watch at Bonnie's home where they witness a man throwing a bottle at the house and the same boy retrieving it again and give chase. They catch up and find a message in the bottle from the gang that they are heading elsewhere, and suspect McNabb warned the gang. Visiting McNabb's home for more information, the Rangers discover his corpse, savagely beaten to death with a bat. Gault believes McNabb's death to be his fault while Hamer tries to dissuade him, leading to an argument. They reconcile and continue. By analyzing their adversaries' movements and believing that "outlaws always go home," Hamer and Gault predict they are heading for Louisiana, to the home of gang member Henry Methvin's father Ivy, who lives in Bienville Parish.
The two go to the house and find evidence that the outlaws were there. Joining forces with the local sheriffs after confirming they are not corrupt, the posse corners Ivy who tells them, in exchange for his son's safety, that the gang is expected soon and that there is only one road to and from his home. The posse is then joined by Ted Hinton and Dallas Sheriff's Deputy Bob Alcorn. That night as they waited over a game of cards, Gault tells the posse of his first deployment with Hamer. They attacked a gang of murderous bandits, killing them all...including a 13-year-old boy Gault accidentally shot.
Ivy later arrives and tells them the gang is coming the next day. Setting up an ambush, Hamer orders Ivy to join them and pretend his vehicle has broken down to stop the gang at the ambush point. When Bonnie and Clyde arrive, they stop to assist Ivy as planned. Hamer steps out, ordering them to raise their hands. When they do not comply and prepare to draw their own weapons, the posse guns them down before the duo has any chance of escape.
The bullet-riddled car is towed along with Bonnie and Clyde's mangled bodies to Arcadia, Louisiana, where it is mobbed by hysterical onlookers. Refusing an offer of $1,000 for an interview from the Associated Press, Hamer and Gault quietly drive home. In the final scene, Hamer pulls over and finally lets Gault drive.
- Kevin Costner as Frank Hamer
- Woody Harrelson as Maney Gault
- Kathy Bates as Miriam "Ma" Ferguson
- John Carroll Lynch as Lee Simmons
- Thomas Mann as Deputy Ted Hinton
- Dean Denton as Deputy Bob Alcorn
- Kim Dickens as Gladys Hamer
- William Sadler as Henry Barrow
- W. Earl Brown as Ivy Methvin
- David Furr as Detective John Quinn
- Jason Davis as Agent Kendale
- Josh Caras as Wade McNabb
- David Born as Sheriff Henderson Jordan
- Brian F. Durkin as Deputy Prentiss Oakley
- Emily Brobst as Bonnie Parker
- Edward Bossert as Clyde Barrow
Around 2005, producer Casey Silver began to develop The Highwaymen, an original pitch from John Fusco that once had Paul Newman and Robert Redford poised to play the veteran Texas Rangers who put an end to the violent robbery spree of Bonnie and Clyde. 
The project had been a long-time goal of Fusco's to portray Texas Ranger Frank Hamer in the proper light of history. Fusco researched extensively in Texas and became friends with Hamer's son, the late Frank Hamer Jr. By 2013, the project was under development at Universal Pictures.
On June 21, 2017, it was reported that Netflix was in negotiations to extricate the production from Universal Pictures. At the time of the report, Netflix was in early discussions with Woody Harrelson and Kevin Costner for the two lead roles and with John Lee Hancock as director. The script was written by John Fusco. Casey Silver, who had been developing the project while it was at Universal, was set to produce.
On February 12, 2018, it was announced by Netflix that the film had entered production. Hancock was officially confirmed as director, and Harrelson, Costner, and Silver were confirmed as producers. They are set to produce alongside Michael Malone and Rod Lake.
Alongside the announcement of the film entering production, it was confirmed that Costner and Harrelson would be playing Frank Hamer and Maney Gault, respectively. In addition, it was announced that Kathy Bates, John Carroll Lynch, Kim Dickens, Thomas Mann, and William Sadler had also joined the cast.
Principal photography for the film commenced on February 12, 2018, in New Orleans, Louisiana and was expected to last until April 10, 2018. The production was set to film in other locations around the state including Covington, LaPlace, Hammond, Baton Rouge, and Garyville. On February 21, 2018, filming took place at Laurel Valley Plantation in Vacherie, Louisiana. The production moved to Donaldsonville, Louisiana where filming took place through February 26, 2018 and where it reportedly shut down an area of the town’s historic district. On March 5, 2018, filming occurred at the Old Louisiana Governor's Mansion in Baton Rouge. Production reportedly caused streets surrounding it to be blocked off for the majority of the day.
From March 21 to 25, 2018, filming took place on Highway 154. Reportedly, the production was reenacting the killing of Bonnie Parker and Clyde Barrow near where the actual event took place. To recreate the scene on what is now an asphalt two-lane highway, the film crew planted trees along the right-of-way and added dirt to cover the blacktop road. Later that month, filming took place on an old U.S. Route 380 bridge that sits southwest of Newcastle, Texas crossing the Brazos River; this bridge was a stand-in for the old Young County Bridge on the Red River between Texas and Oklahoma which had been closed down decades earlier. Principal photography for the film concluded on March 29, 2018 in Shreveport, Louisiana. The production reportedly had a budget of $49 million.
The film's postscripts read:
- "20,000 people attended Bonnie Parker's funeral service in Dallas."
- "Clyde Barrow's service drew 15,000."
- "In 1935, after Miriam 'Ma' Ferguson left office, the Texas Rangers were reconstituted."
- "Benjamin Maney Gault returned to work as a Texas Ranger, until his death on December 14, 1947."
- "Francis Augustus Hamer, the most celebrated Texas Ranger of all time, returned home to Gladys and retirement. He died on July 10, 1955."
- "Frank and Maney are buried in the same small tract in Austin Memorial Park Cemetery." 
The film premiered at the Paramount Theatre in Austin, Texas on March 10, 2019 during the South by Southwest film festival, as part of the "Headliners" series of screenings. It then began a limited theatrical release on March 15, 2019 before beginning to stream digitally on March 29, 2019 on Netflix. In April 2019, Netflix reported that 40 million households had watched the film during its first month of release.
On review aggregator Rotten Tomatoes, the film holds an approval rating of 57% based on 132 reviews, with an average rating of 5.95/10. The website's critical consensus reads, "The Highwaymen depicts law enforcement's side of the Bonnie and Clyde manhunt -- a story that's unfortunately not quite as entertaining despite its marquee leads." On Metacritic, the film has a weighted average score of 58 out of 100, based on 27 critics, indicating "mixed or average reviews".
Awards and nominations
|2020||Satellite Awards||Best Television Film||The Highwaymen||Pending|||
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Netflix’s latest offering tells the story of Bonnie and Clyde from the perspective of the lawmen—played by Kevin Costner and Woody Harrelson—who pursued and killed them.
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Most of The Highwaymen was filmed in several locations around Louisiana, although the shoot also took place in Texas and Oklahoma .... There is a scene with the duo crossing the Red River between Texas and Oklahoma. This sequence was shot in an old steel-framed bridge over Brazos River near Newcastle. The Young County Bridge has been shuttered for almost 40 years
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- Porter, Rick (April 16, 2019). "'Umbrella Academy' Draws 45M Global Viewers, Netflix Claims". The Hollywood Reporter. Retrieved April 16, 2019.
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