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Bonnie and Clyde’s car after the ambush | Wiki­media Commons

Despite its unusually-large budget for a Netflix original movie and big names like Kevin Costner, Woody Har­relson, and Kathy Bates, “The High­waymen” hasn’t gotten much attention since its release in March. But the story of the retired Texas Rangers’ manhunt for Bonnie and Clyde deserves more acco­lades than it has been given. 

Today’s enter­tainment industry is inun­dated with huge action films. Every­thing from “John Wick,” to the “Fast and Furious,” and the Marvel uni­verse films, our culture has become obsessed with the big, the grandiose, the shoot-‘em-up-and-save-the-universe flicks with heroes like Jason Bourne and Captain America. So films like “The High­waymen,” which follows the true story of Frank Hamer and Maney Gault’s manhunt for 1930s mur­derous gang­sters, Bonnie and Clyde, get lost in the mix. This real-life story is not flashy enough for a modern audience. But the his­torical accuracy, nuance, and por­trayal of two leg­endary Texas Rangers is excellent. 

Bonnie Parker and Clyde Barrow were a leg­endary criminal couple that traveled around the middle U.S. leading their mur­derous “Barrow gang” of outlaws during the Great Depression. They were known for bank rob­beries and small-store and gas station hold-ups. They were respon­sible for the deaths of at least 13 people, probably nine of which were law enforcement officers. 

In 1934, after Bonnie and Clyde orches­trated the prison break in Texas known as the “Eastham Breakout,” the state of Texas and the entire federal gov­ernment was deter­mined to end Bonnie and Clyde and the Barrow gang. So the Texas Department of Cor­rec­tions con­tacted one of the most leg­endary Texas Rangers, Captain Frank Hamer, played by Kevin Costner in the movie. 

Hamer, teaming up with Maney Gault, was asked to hunt down Bonnie and Clyde in 1934. Though no longer active Rangers, Hamer and Gault fin­ished the job. 

Hamer was one of the most feared and respected people in Texas. Credited with 53 to 70 kills, wounded 17 times, left for dead at least four times, and with a rep­u­tation for inflexible adherence to what he thought was right, he became Bonnie and Clyde’s shadow as he chased them to their violent end. 

Costner’s por­trayal of Hamer was stunning. From all known accounts, Hamer was quiet with an unim­posing presence but extremely tena­cious and expe­ri­enced. He had seen the bru­tality and the last of the old, wild West. Costner encap­su­lates the char­acter so well that even as the star of the movie, he is not imposing. He is simply a man, res­olutely and wisely doing his job. He does not ask for dra­matic attention, but is tense and deadly, drawing the viewer into his phleg­matic char­acter to the point of fas­ci­nation. 

Gault, Hamer’s partner in the manhunt, was also a retired Texas Ranger, known for being quiet, but honest and reliable. Though he became a legend, Gault orig­i­nally worked at a fur­niture man­u­fac­turing plant, and only became a Texas Ranger after getting involved in under­cover moon­shine inves­ti­ga­tions. 

From all accounts, Gault was fairly similar to Hamer. But Har­relson did an excellent job showing the sim­i­lar­ities while also bringing a lighter side to his char­acter so that he and Costner were dis­tinct char­acters. Hamer and Gault were long-time friends and Har­relson and Costner played their rela­tionship per­fectly. 

The film accu­rately shows that the duo spent a lot of time on the road. A lot. They drove from town to town, always one step behind the criminal couple who were sprinting from state to state and hiding out. 

From Feb. 12 to May 23, 1934, Hamer hunted Bonnie and Clyde and studied the gang’s move­ments. Both in the movie and real-life Gault and Hamer were not Jason Bournes, sprinting through cities and killing people with their bare hands. Gault was 48 and Hamer was 50 at the time, they couldn’t run very fast, and neither of them had been active Rangers for some time. But they were tena­cious and expe­ri­enced, method­i­cally hunting down the crim­inals. 

Bonnie and Clyde’s death was violent. Known for driving up and shooting lawmen point-blank and car­rying a small arsenal in their car, Hamer and Gault and other lawmen pre­pared a road ambush for Bonnie and Clyde. In the film, up to the point of the ambush, Bonnie and Clyde’s faces are not shown. But finally, when Bonnie and Clyde drove up, Hamer stepped out and both Bonnie and Clyde’s faces are shown fully as guns are pointed at them. The lawmen then fired 130 rounds of ammu­nition at the couple as they sat in their car, with Bonnie’s bologna sandwich on her lap. Both Bonnie and Clyde were shot well over 50 times, as the movie well dis­played with the filming of two bodies being shot to pieces and falling dead in the front seat. 

The Ranger program was rein­stated in Texas and Gault was rein­stated and served with dis­tinction until his death in 1947. Hamer also served more time as a Ranger and in private security and retired in 1949. Though both died in rel­ative anonymity, Gault and espe­cially Hamer were con­sidered the quin­tes­sential Texas Rangers. And “The High­waymen” does a fan­tastic job of showing Hamer and Gault’s char­acters and their great manhunt. 

If nothing else, “The High­waymen” should at least get recog­nition for telling the his­tor­i­cally over­shadowed manhunt led by Hamer for Bonnie and Clyde. Staying his­tor­i­cally accurate, the movie does a stellar job of pro­viding insight into the nuance of a manhunt in middle America during the Great Depression. The climax scene of Bonnie and Clyde’s death was shot on the same road and at the exact spot as the real ambush and death. 

But the most out­standing part of the film was the por­trayal of Hamer and Gault. Mil­len­nials can rave about John Wick all they want, but the history of Hamer and Gault is even better.