A tale of crime and love begins in a dead-end town when teen baton-twirler Holly takes off with older rebel Kit after a conflict with her father erupts in murder. In the ensuing crime spree, they journey through the Midwest to the Badlands of Montana, eluding authorities along the way.
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Badlands is on the one hand very clear in the way it presents and feels about its thesis – a product most chiefly of its narrative structure and script. On the other hand, however, Badlands is a poetic ode to the industrialization of the human soul as it journeys (both physically and metaphysically) across the desolate landscapes of the American midwest in hopes of finding what it already possesses: purpose.
Beautifully balanced film, with excellent, haunting music and Magic Hour photography, and superb performances from Sheen, Spacek, Oates and Bieri. One of the greatest -and perhaps the singularly most influential- studies in cinema of sociopathy, and the American interest in the fame of infame.
Seen at Film Forum, and what a difference a big screen makes in turning this tale of a sociopathic killer and his passive girlfriend into a truly hypnotic vision. Part of it feels rooted in 70s drive-ins: a low-budget road movie about killers on the loose. The rest is the beginning of Malick's obsession with the cosmic, juxtaposing small characters with a larger universe that could barely notice their foibles.