In 1934, Bonnie Elizabeth Parker and Clyde Chestnut Barrow died in a hail of bullets, signalling the dramatic end of two of the most iconic gangsters in history.
In 1967, Arther Penn directed an equally iconic film based on their crime spree, further cementing the two in the public consciousness.
Now in 2019, Netflix has premiered an original movie that examines an often unexplored aspect of the story: The policemen who caught them.
The Highwaymen stars Kevin Costner and Woody Harrelson as Frank Hamer and Maney Gault respectively, the two Texas rangers who were hired by then-Texas governor Miriam “Ma” Ferguson to track down and capture Bonnie and Clyde following their escape from Eastham Prison Farm.
While past films, such as 1987’s The Untouchables, have explored the real-life heroes who helped take down some of the most notorious names in organised crime, these films tended to play up the action and thriller elements for entertainment which, while fun to watch, leave one feeling like they’re watching an action movie rather than a real-life drama.
In contrast, The Highwaymen is a real slow burner, focusing more on the behind-the-scenes investigation and drama than gun fights and mob wars.
One of the best parts of the film for me was the exploration of the massive fan-following Bonnie and Clyde received at the time. Thanks to their glamorisation in the US mainstream press, the crime duo were often treated like rockstars by the public.
There’s this funny scene where Hamer and Gault are prevented from apprehending the pair because hundreds of people flock around their car, hoping to get an autograph. It’s quite surreal and shows just how much society is willing to ignore in the name of hero- worship.
Admittedly, the plot does slow to a crawl in the second act and the slower pace might put off some who are looking for a more exciting gangster flick, such as The Untouchables or even 2009’s Public Enemies.
However, for those looking for a different perspective on this historic period, one that looks at the often-overlooked and under-appreciated good guys for a change, The Highwaymen is definitely worth a watch.