In one of the first scenes in The Highwaymen, Bonnie Parker limps up to a wounded cop who lays dying and plugs him in the head at point blank range for good measure. The young highway patrolman was engaged to be married at the time, his fiancee wore her wedding dress to his funeral, and the public outcry over the story was a major factor in turning public opinion against Bonnie and Clyde in 1934.
Trouble is, it didn’t actually happen. At least not according to Jeff Guinn’s biography of the couple, which says it was Barrow gangmember Henry Methwin who delivered the extra shots, after starting the shootout in the first place, when the police approached the gang and Methwin misunderstood Barrow’s directive “I guess we have to take them now” to mean kill them instead of kidnap them (Barrow had previously always taken cops hostage when possible rather than killed them).
You could certainly make the case that Clyde Barrow was a cop killer (he undoubtedly killed cops) and that Texas Ranger Frank Hamer, played by Kevin Costner in The Highwaymen, deserved better than his bungling depiction in 1967’s Best Picture nominated Bonnie And Clyde. This was, after all, a man whose somewhat controversial legacy at least included fighting the KKK and preventing a lynching or two before he got involved in the hunt for Bonnie and Clyde. At the very least it seems he was pretty good at his job.
Point being, there’s enough in the record to support a movie about Bonnie and Clyde where Hamer is the relatable one. So why does The Highwaymen need to cheat?
The Highwaymen, directed by John Lee Hancock and written by John Fusco, starring Costner as Hamer and Woody Harrelson as BM “Manny” Gault (yes, his name apparently really was “BM”) certainly wants to be the dads rule, punks drool take on the manhunt for Bonnie and Clyde, where all the lib justifications for their criminality — they were born into poverty, the cops were always picking on them, banks were predatory, it was the depression, there were no jobs, etc. etc. — are waved away with “but they broke the law!”
Never mind that the real Gault and Hamer were 38 and 50 at the time, at one point Harrelson’s character mutters to Costner’s,”I remember when you had to actually do something to be famous.”
These dang kids today with their bank robbin’ and their robot butlers and their sex tapes, doesn’t anyone build anything anymore? The Highwaymen seems to want to be reactionary but comes off merely crotchety.