The Highwaymen: a new look at the famous story


Sydney Booth, Editor-in-chief

Based on the true story of Bonnie and Clyde, Netflix original The Highwaymen is a fresh take on a classic American story. The film tells the story of Frank Hamer (Kevin Costner), the Texas Ranger who was credited with finally bringing the criminals to justice, and Hamer’s partner Maney Gault (Woody Harrelson). The best part of the entire film is the historical elements and the unique perspective of frank Hamer, a little-known American hero.

To this day, Bonnie Elizabeth Parker and Clyde Chestnut Barrow are some of the most famous criminals in history. Know plainly as Bonnie and Clyde, the pair traveled all over the Central United States during the Great Depression, killing police officers, robbing banks, evading authorities, and becoming American icons in the process. The criminals were something of a “Robin Hood” persona, admired especially by the poor.

As a retired Texas Ranger, Hamer was asked to help track down the villains by a government official. A-list actors Costner and Harrelson were perfectly casted for their respective roles. The old, worn out Texas Rangers made for the perfect protagonists.

Compared with other Netflix originals, The Highwaymen felt more like a movie that could be legitimately showed in theatres. The historical details were impressively legitimate. The entire film did an excellent job of displaying the scenes of the times. From the Hoovervilles to the genuine rifles hanging in the hardware stores, every detail was authentic. One of the best historical details was Gault’s introduction to the new wiretapping technologies. When Gault expressed his wonderment, the younger Federal agents remarked condescendingly about the old-fashioned ways of the Texas Rangers.

One of the biggest arguments against The Highwaymen is that it is a “whitewashed” version of history. That liberal viewpoint was probably the key factor in the movies reviews; Rotten tomatoes gave the film a mere 54%. The 1960s film portrayal of Bonnie and Clyde actually portrayed Hamer as a villain after the notorious pair for revenger. Hamer’s family sued the film’s producers for defamation, and eventually settled in court.

Liberals long labeled him as a racist and sexist. However, some quick research of his life (which would be a great Netflix documentary, by the way) reveals that he is every bit of the unlikely hero The Highwaymen makes him out to be. Sure, he was human and the film does a good job about pointing out his regrets as a Texas Ranger. He is estimated to have survived 50 gunfights before dying of natural causes in 1955. He was involved in several facets of law enforcement, even dappling in the oil industry. He was even a special guard to senate candidates because authorities were so confident in his protective abilities. When WWII was declared, Hamer sent word to King Henry IV that he would provide 50 Texas Rangers to help defend Britain.The whole argument of him being “racist” also crumbles when you dig into his role in the Sherman Courthouse Riot of 1930, where he prevented a mob from lynching a Negro man who was on trial for assault on a white woman. Additionally, Hamer forged a bond with a black field hand, whom he hired as his personal driver. That driver later wrote a book about Hamer, praising his character. 

The Highwaymen is a well-told story of some forgotten characters in history, and it has action and humor to entertain throughout.