You have all heard the stories of Bonnie and Clyde, but now Netflix is rolling out a story about the other side of the law. The Highwaymen is about two detectives who made it their mission to find the famed duo and became a famous pair themselves. But after watching the Netflix movie, viewers are definitely going to be wondering if The Highwaymen is based on a true story. I'm not sure if the real life Maney Gault was as charming as Woody Harrelson plays him to be, but The Highwaymen is based on real detectives who dragged themselves out of retirement to try and catch Bonnie and Clyde at the height of their criminal careers.
The movie follows Gault's search for Bonnie and Clyde with his Texas ranger partner Frank Hamer, both of whom were tasked with catching the robbers-turned-murderers in real life. According to Men's Health, Bonnie and Clyde are only seen from a distance while the movie follows Gault and Hamer's search more closely and focuses on the friendship between the two men as they worked on the case together.
So while you shouldn't expect to see a glamorized version of the criminals that have been the subject of countless other movies, The Highwaymen is still based on real life events and other real life people from the era.
At the height of Bonnie and Clyde's crime spree, the Texas prison system tasked Hamer with leading the team of officers and to track down the group of criminals, which included more than just Bonnie and Clyde, and either arrest or kill them. Hamer and Gault already knew each other well after Hamer gave him his first undercover job taking down a moonshine business, so it was only natural that Gault was a part of the investigation too.
From there, Gault continued to help him and eventually, they worked together to take down Bonnie and Clyde by whatever means necessary. Like Hamer, Gault was a Texas ranger in his own right and his friendship with Hamer was well known at the time.
Just like in The Highwaymen, in real life Hamer had planned to take Bonnie, Clyde, and the rest of their gang into custody, but instead a shoot-out ensued, resulting in the criminals’ deaths and the end of their two-year crime spree.
The Highwaymen is like a buddy cop movie depicting one of the first pairs of real life buddy cops against the backdrop of the Great Depression. Director John Lee Hancock and writer John Fusco spoke to The Cinema Files about what inspired them to make the film and, they agreed, it was about showing another bigger side to the story and shedding light on a couple of heroes despite the criminals still being household names.
"He was one of the greatest law officers of the 20th Century, who had took on the KKK single-handedly, out of exemplifying that one-riot-one-Ranger ethos," Fusco said of Hamer. "And was like a really cool western hero to me as a kid. So suddenly here I was, you know, going from the gangster worship to, Wow. Hamer kind of got a bad deal in this. And so I grew up waiting for someone to do his story on some level."
Hancock said that because he is from Texas, he grew up knowing a little more about the rangers behind the takedown of Bonnie and Clyde and saw them as fascinating parts of the story. "I was really drawn to the dark journey of these two men who have a terrible gift. And their gift is they’re blood hunters,” He said. “And they know it’s going to be ugly and they know what it’s going to look like and what’s at the end of the road waiting for them. And there’s no one they can talk to. Almost like veterans of battle or something."
Although you only get to see fleeting glances at Bonnie and Clyde for the majority of the movie, the focus is on the men who worked together to take them down and it definitely adds an entirely new perspective to a more commonly known story.