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Tuesday, December 10, 2013

"Bonnie & Clyde" - TV Review


Site: "Bonnie & Clyde" - A&E



The much-hyped TV movie, "Bonnie & Clyde," is a mix of the good and the bad. There is excellent cinematography, sound design, and performance by William Hurt. But, there is also the excessive artistic license and lack of historical accuracy.

The result is a mixed bag that can't be either recommended or asked to be be avoided. The movie takes the view that Bonnie Parker was the instigator of everything that went on. She is portrayed as someone who is desperate for glory and is willing to sacrifice whomever has to be sacrificed to get what she wants. This runs counter to what history says, that Clyde Barrow was a criminal with little regard for human life, and was going to do whatever necessary so that he did not go back to prison.

The movie was shown in two parts. The first centered a lot on Barrow's experiences in prison, including being raped, which is particularly grisly. You used to have to go to a dark, R-rated film like "Deliverance" for that, but now you can see it on TV! There is a fair amount of bloody violence and PG-rated language. This most likely would be a fairly strong PG-13 or lower-level R, if it were in theaters.

The first part is mostly preamble, and not very interesting preamble at that. The second part is where the movie goes into high gear, with all the shootings and graphic violence I am guessing people came for. The highlight, though, is a great performance by William Hurt! When I saw him in the cast, I was very hopeful, since he just gave an excellent performance in the Discovery Channel film, "The Challenger Disaster." Here, he gets down and dirty as a determined crime fighter, who has no problems killing whomever he gets a chance to, or to union bust for greedy corporations. His telling of why he's come out of retirement to hunt down Bonnie and Clyde to a colleague is chilling.

After four hours, including commercials, the ending to the film comes so suddenly, you wonder how they could spend those four hours on all that came before it, and only spend a few minutes on the ending. Very bizarre!

The movie was directed by Bruce Beresford, who most famously directed "Breaker Morant" and "Driving Miss Daisy." Here, he makes the most of the script he has been given. The cinematography is excellent! Some of the best I have seen on TV in recent memory. The sound design is excellent and is striking through a good stereo set up. There are some real irritants here, though. John Debney's film score is pretty bad, only working well in the final 40 minutes of the production. The performance by the lady playing the exploitative newspaper woman is highly irritating. The voice over by Clyde, as with all voice overs, demonstrates laziness by the screenwriters. It usually shows a lack of imagination to use cinematic techniques to show what's happening, and instead just tell us with the voice over. Clyde's "second sight" construct by the screenwriters, in which he sees events before they happen is odd, but ironically provides some of the rare cinematic quality the film needed.

In the end, stylized tellings of history can work, when they are done well. Such was the case with Arthur Penn's classic version of the story from 1967. And, was also the case with the Brian De Palma-directed, David Mamet-scripted "The Untouchables" from 1987. There were definite historic liberties taken in both cases. But, since both films were so masterfully done, it doesn't matter! We know that neither was trying to be a documentary from the get go, so it's okay. We know that there are resources where we can learn the true story. The films are there as art, and great art at that. This TV movie definitely doesn't get there, though. And, that's the difference.

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