CANNES-Whichever film wins the Palme d’Or at Cannes on Sunday night, there is no mistaking the biggest mainstream hit of the festival. “Hell or High Water”, a modern western starring Jeff Bridges as a Texan ranger on the trail of two brothers robbing branches of the bank that is about to repossess their farm, has had critics reaching for superlatives.

The film industry bible Variety called it a “thrillingly good movie - a crackerjack drama of crime, fear, and brotherly love set in a sun-roasted, deceptively sleepy West Texas that feels completely exotic for being so authentic.”

Scottish director David Mackenzie’s clever twist on a cowboys and Indians story has been called a cry of defiance from a forgotten rural America which no longer trusts its institutions.

It has already provoked comparisons with the “lyrical hunger” of Norman Mailer’s Pulitzer Prize-winning novel “The Executioner’s Song”, with his cast praised for finally filling John Wayne’s boots. Chris Pine and Ben Foster - who play the brothers - swagger across the screen like “Wayne’s punk grandsons”, Variety declared, saying the film was Pine’s “undoubted breakthrough” after years of being typecast as Captain Kirk in “Star Trek”. But others are pointing to Bridges’ turn as the ageing lawman as clever “as an old catfish” as a potential award winner come Oscar time, particularly for the low-key comedy of his scratchy relationship with his half-Comanche, half-Mexican partner (Gil Birmingham). “The film’s ace card is its intertwining of not one but two mismatched buddy relationships,” the British film magazine Screen said, calling it “the most commercially appealing and fully achieved” film in the main selection at Cannes. Director Mackenzie - who lives thousands of miles from West Texas in Glasgow - has also won praise for this “authentic slice of Americana” which catches the zeitgeist of increasing distrust of banks and other financial institutions. “I think people are asking questions about their place in an increasingly corporatised, globalised world,” Mackenzie told AFP.

“There is increasing distrust of the organisations that are supposed to support people. You can feel that in the air,” he added. He said it was this ambivalence about what is right and wrong when banks can legally “steal” your home, which drew him to Taylor “Sicario” Sheridan’s script.

“I liked the siding with the outlaws and yet not being sure (about them), and all the grey areas of it. I am a big fan the western genre and I loved the themes of trying to reclaim what was theirs. “The script had great poetic moments and then it kicks up through the gears” for the action scenes. “I just followed it,” he added. Mackenzie - whose last film “Starred Up”, a gritty prison drama, was also acclaimed - said in audience tests the film “resonates with both camps” in American politics. “I am very interested to see how it plays with both sides of the electorate. It feels timely,” he said. But for all the praise of the film’s authenticity in depicting dying small towns, Mackenzie admitted it does get one vital thing wrong.

“Texas rangers are not allowed to have moustaches, and Jeff Bridges has one in the film.

“But we thought we could get away with it because there’s a maverick element to him,” he added.

Danish director Nicolas Winding Refn and US actress Elle Fanning pose as they arrive for the screening of the film "The Neon Demon" at the 69th Cannes

Film Festival in Cannes.–AFP