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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A beautiful paean to shiftless cruelty. Despite all the mesmeric poetry to mythic American iconography, this is akin to raw meat artistically arranged in the golden glow of a sunset - but it's still raw meat. The amoral dawdle provides a modus to the wistfully elegiac tone, but an elegy to what? A folkloric burnished afternoon or unprovoked killing? Perhaps both, worryingly. A tragic cine-novella either way.
Sheen does a superb work in here - so does Spacek, but damn this James Dean firecracker. Malick investigates America by the filter of underworld badlands: the devil's looking young and blonde and beautiful - a glance at the unglamorous youth. But wait, it gets even better when Sheen's caught - it's heart-blowing. Paradise cinema.
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 mistakes.
The grace and elegance in its whimsical acting and the recherche mood makes Badlands a serial killer film of tenderness. The minimalism in plot construction gives it a common lovers-on-the-lam vibe, and despite its beauty, there isn't much meaning to the style outside of a dreamy quality. The final act, however, gives the story meaning as we wonder why we are so fascinated with these killers in the first place.
Yes, I do have to watch Bonnie and Clyde and Thelma and Louise (even though I feel I have, because the images of those films permeate so much of our western culture). But I did watch Natural Born Killers (not a road movie, I know). Watching this masterpiece by Terrence Malick, I realize that american culture evades me. I'm intrigued. What happens here? There is something strange that needs deeper investigation. *
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.
This may be the best debut feature ever. It's also the only Malick film I've really loved; if only he had continued down the path started with this movie, which has a sense of focus that his later work lacks. Martin Sheen and Sissy Spacek are both great, creating two incredibly complex characters.
Terrence Malick's feature debut elevates the low-budget violent road movie of the 70s to poetic new heights. It's not a perfect film, the deliberate pacing is sometimes entrancing, sometimes maddening (a trend in Malick's films that continues to this day). But with its superb naturalistic performances and majestic visuals, it mostly lives up to its lofty reputation.