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Badlands (Criterion) (1973)

Cast: Martin Sheen, Martin Sheen, Sissy Spacek, more...
Director: Terrence Malick, Terrence Malick
    see all cast/crew...
Studio: Criterion
Genre: Independent, Classic Crime, Crime, Classic Crime, Quest, Road Movies, Criterion Collection
Running Time: 95 min.
Languages: English, French
Subtitles: English, French
    see additional details...

"He wanted to die with me and I dreamed of being lost forever in his arms." A young couple goes on a Midwest crime spree in Terrence Malick's hypnotically assured debut feature, based on the 1950s Starkweather-Fugate murders. Fancying himself a rebel like James Dean, twentysomething Kit (Martin Sheen) takes off with teen baton-twirler Holly (Sissy Spacek) after shooting her father (Warren Oates) when he tries to split the pair up. Once bounty hunters discover their riverside hiding place, Kit and Holly head toward Saskatchewan, leaving dead bodies in their wake. As the law closes in, however, Holly gives herself up -- but Kit doesn't hold it against her, as he basks in his new status as a momentary folk hero. Inaugurating the use of voice-over narration that he would continue in Days of Heaven (1978) and The Thin Red Line (1998), Malick juxtaposes Holly's flat readings of her flowery romance-novel diary prose with the banal and surreal details of their journey. Singularly inarticulate with each other, Kit and Holly are more intrigued by mythic celebrity gestures, as Holly peruses her fan magazines and Kit commemorates key moments before orchestrating a properly dramatic capture for himself (complete with the right hat). The sublime visuals lend a dreamlike beauty to the couple's trip even as their actions are treated casually; Malick neither glamorizes Kit and Holly nor consigns them to the bloody end of their fame-fixated predecessors in Bonnie and Clyde (1967). With the couple's opaque dialogue and Holly's fanzine dream narration, Malick further denies an easy explanation for their crimes. Made for under 500,000 dollars, Badlands debuted at the 1973 New York Film Festival, along with Martin Scorsese's Mean Streets, and was released within months of two other outlaw-couple road movies, Steven Spielberg's The Sugarland Express and Robert Altman's Thieves Like Us. Although Badlands did not make an impression at the box office, its pictorial splendor and cool yet disquieting narrative established Malick as one of the most compelling artists to come out of early-'70s Hollywood. ~ Lucia Bozzola, All Movie Guide

You might also enjoy:
Days of Heaven
Malick's lyrical, beautifully shot (of course), minimalist drama

Bonnie and Clyde
The granddaddy of all Criminal-Couple-on-the-Run sagas; notorious in '67 and still packs a wallop

GreenCine Member Reviews

Loosely Based by regrizel May 6, 2007 - 1:25 PM PDT
Don't expect the film to be a completely true representation of the Charles Starkweather's crimes. The true cowardice (e.g., the murder of a two year old child) and nature of the murders are diluted in an effort to make him digestible for a main stream audience.

So good that it got ripped off by a wannabe...twice by toddandsteph January 15, 2007 - 8:39 PM PST
1 out of 1 members found this review helpful
Oh God, yeas. This one's been on my to-see list for wayyy too long as Malick has always been spoken of as another one of those amazing auteurs of the Hollywood renaissance, and this flick freaking cemented it for me. What's amazing about this flick? Let's go down the list. Incredible way ahead of its time direction with cinematography that feels as fresh as a shirt from the line. A great script full of subtext that takes a true story and transcends it to say something about human nature and society as a whole. Awesome acting from the leads Martin Sheen and Sissy Spacek (who wouldn't do anything on this level again...although Carrie is the cat's ankles) and from all of the supporting characters. Honestly, all of these guys are wonderful, making even a small-time victim into a completely memorable character. Oh, and Warren Oates is in it too in a wonderfully acted role as Spacek's father. Did I mention the great soundtrack that is at the perfect tone and level for every scene? Beautiful and horrifyingly violent, this movie is a wonder from the 1970s that can hold its own alongside Taxi Driver or Apocalypse Now or Bring Me The Head of Alfredo Garcia as history lessons of how that decade was probably the most amazing decade for cinema ever. ***** out've *****

GreenCine Member Rating

(Average 7.76)
399 Votes
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