A WaPo op-ed about The Highwaymen’s retelling of Frank Hamer’s hunt for Bonnie and Clyde speaks volumes about how Leftists reject the idea of redemption.
Last night, I got around to watching Netflix’s The Highwaymen, which follows former Texas Rangers Frank Hamer and Maney Gault as they hunt down criminals Bonnie Parker and Clyde Barrow. It is an excellent production. Visually, the movie is beautiful, with meticulous attention to sets and costumes. The acting is also extremely good, with Kevin Costner as a somewhat tortured Hamer and Woody Harrelson as Hamer’s conscience and sidekick.
Unlike the 1967 Bonnie and Clyde movie, with Warren Beatty and Faye Dunaway, this movie does not glamorize or romanticize Bonnie and Clyde. Instead, we see them in small vignettes that reveal only how addicted they were to killing, especially killing law enforcement. Hamer and Gault, whom Costner and Harrelson do a marvelous job of portraying, are anything but romantic. They’re old and grumpy, they can’t shoot straight, and their bladders aren’t what they used to be — but they’re also wily, experienced, and dogged trackers whose knowledge and instincts outweigh all the “new wave” technology available in 1934.
If you’d like to read a full review of the movie, I recommend Kyle Smith at National Review. I’ll just quote here what he wrote about the movie’s moral center, which was part of what made it so watchable for me:
Retelling Bonnie and Clyde from the point of view of the actual heroes of the story is a superb idea that took far too long to come to screen. Hired by the governor of Texas, “Ma” Ferguson (Kathy Bates), aging ex-Rangers Frank Hamer (Costner) and Maney Gault (Harrelson) are given a special mandate to end a reign of terror that left 13 people dead, yet was celebrated as a romantic tale of sexy desperadoes who were folk heroes to the newspapers of the Great Depression and later easily adapted into symbols of Sixties liberation.
Channeling Hamer’s rage and disgust, The Highwaymen attacks the myth of Bonnie and Clyde, who are seen only in glimpses. Far from robbing banks on behalf of hapless victims of the Depression, the Barrow gang mostly stuck to soft targets such as gas stations and grocery stores. Yet ordinary Americans were enthralled by the rebel legends and are seen concealing information to cover for the killers — though they were cheap, vicious cowards who would do anything for a buck. Governor Ferguson (Kathy Bates) replies to reporters pushing the Robin Hood narrative, “Did Robin Hood ever shoot a gas station attendant in the head for four dollars and a tank of gas?”
John Fusco’s shrewd and meditative script has fun trolling Bonnie and Clyde: The scene in the earlier film in which Bonnie dramatically reads aloud her poem about her life and anticipated death inspires a scene in which Hamer and Gault consider the same poem and note that it’s moronic. “Used to be, you had to have talent to get published. Now you just have to shoot people,” notes Gault. In another scene Gault just about has Clyde in his sights when the bandit’s car is suddenly mobbed by adoring fans.
Rather than talk anymore about the ins and outs of the movie, I want to talk about the ins and outs of victimhood and the modern Left’s resistance to redemption. As we’ve seen repeatedly in the drama’s played out across politics and social media, to the Left, apologizing for your sin is mandatory, but you’ll still never be allowed to move beyond that sin. [Read more…]