Netflix's The Highwaymen takes another look at the true story of criminal couple Bonnie Parker and Clyde Barrow, but this time from a different perspective. Past portrayals, like 1967's Bonnie and Clyde, centered on the perpetrators' point of view, but this Netflix movie shifts the focus to the lawmen hot on their trail. And these photos of the real Frank Hamer from The Highwaymen give you a glimpse at one of the people who brought down two of the most famous bank robbers of all time.
According to Oxygen, Hamer was born the son of a blacksmith in 1886. He would go on to join the Texas Rangers in his early 20s, primarily working to capture "bootleggers and bandits" at the border. But there is a darker edge to the real Hamer that may be absent from The Highwaymen, where he's played by Kevin Costner. Per Oxygen, The Washington Post revealed that the Texas Rangers "advocated chattel slavery" and were initially formed to "protect" white Americans from Mexicans and indigenous people. The publication also claimed that Hamer could take things too far and was known to sometimes torture suspects.
The Highwaymen portrays Hamer as heroic, however. Screenwriter John Fusco spoke to Oxygen about his belief that Hamer had been unfairly maligned.
"After 16 years of research into the life and career of Frank Hamer, I am shocked by the outrageous inaccuracy in labeling Hamer as racist," Fusco said, citing the John Boessenecker biography Texas Ranger as setting the story straight. He went on to say, "I am also beyond stunned to see any reference to Hamer enforcing Jim Crow laws. It was actually the opposite. Frank Hamer, who took on the KKK in Texas, also saved African-American men from lynch mobs on 15 documented occasions."
Hamer was retired by the time Barrow and Parker were committing their robberies and murders, but Refinery29 stated that he was convinced to take on the case anyway. Hamer and his partner Maney Gault followed Barrow and Parker across 15 states until they finally caught the criminals in a violent shoot-out. When it happened in 1934, The New York Times reported that Hamer, Gault, and the other lawmen involved laid a death trap for Parker and Barrow. Upon arrival, they were riddled with a "deadly hail of bullets." Then, "the officers, taking no chances with the gunman who had tricked them so often, poured another volley of bullets into the [car]."
There aren't many photos of Hamer available online. One shows him standing next to Parker's body after her death, expression impassive, while other men look on from nearby. In another, he bears a passing resemblance to Costner, though any similarities are surely helped along by costuming. Hamer doesn't have a distinctive appearance that would be easily recognized by the public, so it's easier for the production to take liberties with how he looks. He and Costner may not be twins, but they look close enough to make the casting make sense. The real trick of capturing Hamer lies in the performance, and viewers can judge that for themselves any time on Netflix.