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hilocountry.jpg (6871 bytes)

The Hi-Lo Country

Starring Woody Harrelson, Billy Crudup and Patricia Arquette
Screenplay by Walon Green
Based on a novel by Max Evans
Directed by Stephen Frears
website: www.hilocountry.com

IN SHORT: The last of the cowboy movies.

Cranky isn't describing a John Wayne genre flick with that summary. I'm talking about a historic end. The Hi-Lo Country is set just post WWII, a time of the last cattle drives and the cowboys that ran the herds to the railhead. Someone along the line figured out there was more profit in trucking the meat, thus ended an era. The cowboy life didn't, though and in The Hi-Lo Country we are presented a story of friendship that includes lots of hard fighting, hard loving, and a bunch of good acting. Definite guy stuff, especially for those of us old enough to have dreamed of becoming cowboys when we "grew up." If ever there was a male equivalent of a "chick flick," The Hi-Lo Country is it.

Wide open country spaces abound in The Hi-Lo Country, set somewhere out in New Mexico. The land is barren. The weather is tough. The life is hard and the friendships are even harder. Hi-Lo is the tale of Big Boy (Woody Harrelson) so generically pulp western fiction that, had I never met guys like him in my younger days, you would swear that he is stereotype. Big Boy is the last of the independent, live on a horse cowboys. He really cares for nothing that gets in his way, be it a woman's husband, a whiny younger brother (Cole Hauser) who went to work for the competition, or his best friend when he gets in Big Boy's way.

The friend Pete (Billy Crudup) is desperately in love with the same woman, Mona (Patricia Arquette), married to a cattle baron who made his money while all the good cowboys were off fighting WWII. Class envy, sexual rivalry, and traditional definitions of friendship, brotherly loyalty and manliness all take it on the chin by the time the titles roll.

You've seen rivalries like those that play out in The Hi-Lo Country a zillion times before, but as the West closes to the time of widespread cattle drives, this flick closes the genre with a twist. Indeed, you'll think you'll see the ending coming a mile away. But you'll be wrong. Cranky was.

On average, a first run movie ticket will run you Eight Bucks. Were Cranky able to set his own price to The Hi-Lo Country, he would have paid...


When I saw The Hi-Lo Country at the beginning of December, I was truly moved by the spectacle of the entire piece and a lot of that has to do with the surprise at the end. Had that not been there, this would've gone down the dumper fast. As it is, I'm writing the review three weeks and another thirty movies on, and Hi-Lo Country didn't prove to have the legs I thought it did way back when. I'm not talking box office, I'm talking moments that make it stand above everything else that's hit this season.

You get chick flicks a plenty all year. This is definitely for us guys. 'Cuz we'll understand.

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