Badlands (1974)

In 1959 a lot of people were killing time. Kit and Holly were killing people.

Dramatization of the Starkweather-Fugate killing spree of the 1950s, in which a teenage girl and her twenty-something boyfriend slaughtered her entire family and several others in the Dakota badlands.

Little did I realise that what began in the alleys and back ways of this quiet town would end in the Badlands of Montana.
Badlands is written and directed by Terrence Malick. It stars Martin Sheen, Sissy Spacek, Ramon Bieri and Warren Oats. Music is by George Tipton and James Taylor and cinematography by Tak Fujimoto, Steven Larner and Brian Probyn.
Badlands seems to be adored by critics, often being coined as one of the best debuts ever made by a director. Maybe based loosely on the Starkweather-Fugate killing spree of 1958, though the makers have been at pains to ensure we know this is a case of all the characters and situations being fictional, Badlands does indeed have impressive strands. It's a gorgeous picture visually, the surreal feel that is sometimes garnered by Malick in the narrative gives the piece a haunted edge and Spacek and Sheen are very good given the characters they are asked to play.
However, Malick's commentary on amoral youth of 50s America, a corruption of innocence, alienation and etc, never has the depth, to my mind, to really be as special as so many say it is. Some argue the sketchy motives and reasonings involving Kit and Holly are deliberately thought provoking, I'd argue that devoid of psychological meat they are dull characters only livened by the actors' performances. Holly's narration is a clever device by Malick, serving to keep us interested since the structure of the film is repetitious, where being in the company of Kit and Holly becomes a chore. And lets not get onto credibility either...
I know I'm in the minority, but three times I have tried to grasp this supposed genius in Badlands, and I just don't see it. There's a myth and mysticism that has been attributed to it, even enhanced as the years have rolled by, but where there is undoubtedly beauty on the surface, down below there is no beast. 6/10

Pressman-Williams, Jill Jakes Production, Badlands Company, Warner Bros. Pictures by Terrence Malick.
Stars: Martin Sheen, Sissy Spacek, Warren Oates, Ramon Bieri.

Genres: Crime, Drama

Keywords: mass murder on the run fugitive killing spree south dakota badlands

01/05/1974

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