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Overall Rating

Worth A Look: 19.05%
Average: 7.14%
Pretty Bad: 0%
Total Crap: 7.14%

1 review, 36 user ratings

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Bonnie and Clyde
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by MP Bartley

"There's nothing like a good dose of Sex and Violence."
5 stars

As the recent lacklustre version of 'Ned Kelly' proved, one of Hollywoods favourite stories is still the legend of criminal gangs on the loose, robbing banks, defying the law, becoming folk heroes before dying in a blaze of glory and bullets. 'Ned Kelly' also proved the way not to do it. 'Bonnie and Clyde' however proves the way it should be done - with intelligence, style and guts.

Everyone will be familiar by now with the story of Bonnie Parker (Faye Dunaway) and Clyde Barrow (Warren Beatty). Clyde, just out of prison for armed robbery hooks up with bored waitress Bonnie in depression-era America and the pair of them embark on a murdering and robbing crime spree across America. Along the way they hook up with young and naive mechanic CW Moss (Michael J Pollard) and Clyde's brother and sister in law, Buck and Blanche (Gene Hackman and Estelle Parsons).

As I say, it's an eternally fascinating story that has been repeated so many times with different characters - 'Badlands', 'Bandits', 'Ned Kelly' - that it would be easy to think that there was nothing new to say about it. 'Bonnie and Clyde' however stands out, simply because it has something different to say and it was the first to say it. For the first time, killers and robbers were made to look cool and sexy (in an interesting contrast, try to find a picture of the real-life Bonnie and Clyde. Warren Beatty and Faye Dunaway lookalikes they are not). It was initially criticised for a lack of morals and for glamourising their crimes and murders. Look closer however and you'll see this isn't true. This isn't a simple minded 'Ned Kelly' making murderers into heroes, turning a murky grey area into simple black and white.

Penn's film has much more intelligence than that. They may look great, but their crime spree is never explained. The film never condescends the audience by making Bonnie and Clyde victims, or martyrs of police brutality. So they may look sexy robbing the bank...but how sexy do they look gunning down policemen simply doing their job? So while there's no motivation for their behaviour there's no finger-wagging from the film either. It simply refuses to make a judgement and forces the audience to use their brains and make their own choices for once. Which is something we should all be grateful for.

There's something here for anyone who claims to be any sort of film fan. The shoot-outs are splendidly handled from the careful sound design which means every gun-shot practically blasts out of the screen at you, to the infamous and bloody final ambush.
Penn evokes the look and atmosphere of depression-era America superbly with a dry and dusty cinematography, and there's a feeling of approaching death undercutting the hi-jinks at all times (they pick up an undertaker at one point to Bonnie's disgust).

It's not all style however, there's substance here for film scholars to chew over for years to come. There's the satirical look at criminals becoming folk heroes, there's the satire of the fetishation of guns in American society (eat your heart out 'Bowling for Columbine') and American society in general (there's sneering attacks at the effects of banks on the poor, and what kind of society produces young people ready to drop out of steady jobs to rob and murder instead?). Furthermore, just so there's no simplistic praising of murderers here, there's the deconstruction of your typical good-looking movie gangster. Clyde may brandish his gun and shoot bullets all over the place, but when he's alone with Bonnie his gun is the only thing he can brandish.

There's a river of intrigue, satire and subtle meaning flowing throughout the guns, guts and carnage here. The cast is also superb to a tee. Beatty undermines his good looks with a performance of manly bravado with the guts of a frightened child beneath. He can shoot an unarmed man but can't admit to his brother how far he's got (or hasn't got) with Bonnie. Dunaway is sexy, yet cruel and always hinting at a more troubled person underneath all her cockiness as Bonnie's the only one who sees a nasty end in sight for them. The supporting cast also lend a lot of colour to the film. Hackman is as great as ever as the more cocky and more dim-witted elder brother and Parsons speaks for us all perhaps as the initially horrified by-stander who can't help but be excited and caught up in the thrill of the chase. And Pollard is also excellent (and never as good again) as the easily led CW who is perhaps the only one left with any semblance of humanity at the end.

It's a magnificent cast shaking every ounce of subtlety out of the script and they were all rewarded with Oscar nominations for their troubles, with Parsons the only one to rack up a win.

It's fitting that with the exception of Hackman and perhaps Beatty, no-one ever did as good work again as they did in 'Bonnie and Clyde'. Penn, Parsons and Pollard all faded into routine careers after this, proving that as Bonnie and Clyde show, fame can only be fleeting and it should be made the most of. 'Bonnie and Clyde' also has far more going on underneath it's surface than its gory reputation suggests, and those who remember it only for it's bloody climax should really watch it again. Ushering in a new watershed of gore and a couple of new faces for cinematic cool, movies were never really the same after Bonnie and Clyde held us up for two hours.

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originally posted: 07/08/04 23:21:52
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OFFICIAL SELECTION: 2007 Florida Film Festival For more in the 2007 Florida Film Festival series, click here.

User Comments

7/20/15 FireWithFire Hey Boomers: do you finally feel shame for using this as an excuse to hate the US? 1 stars
4/02/15 stanley welles memorable and breathtaking 5 stars
2/09/12 David Hollingsworth Influential, and one of the pioneers of the anti-hero films 5 stars
7/06/10 art THE HIGHLIGHT is the AMBUSH at the END! 3 stars
3/28/10 Jeff Wilder Set the stage for modern gangster films and is a classic in itself. 5 stars
3/31/09 Phineasandhiskillerspear Leftist hero propaganda with more lies and half-truths than a Michael Moore "documentary". 1 stars
3/25/08 Isaac M. Baranoff One of my favorites. True classic. 5 stars
3/25/08 action movie fan dull except for final gun battle-dillinger (1973) was far better in every way 3 stars
2/05/08 Paul Shortt Outstanding film classic 5 stars
5/08/07 Alex I loved the blending of the violence and humour. Great film man 5 stars
11/25/05 Jake A superb film with great performance from Beatty and Dunaway 5 stars
7/13/04 Alfred Guy A classic with great acting from Beatty, Dunaway and Hackman. 5 stars
7/09/04 Colin M. Demge Very good film. Check out "Guncrazy" for an earlier B-film with the same theme. 4 stars
5/16/04 John cast made in heaven or some such place - first rate 5 stars
5/14/04 Darryl Classic film! Carol Lynley should've played Bonnie, though. 5 stars
1/15/04 Betty White Groundbreaking, high-energy drama with powerhouse performances. 5 stars
11/27/03 allison awesome 5 stars
10/30/03 josh definitely one of the greatest...ever...except for Surf Ninjas. 5 stars
10/20/03 Samuel Justus loved it! The fact that it really happpened makes it better..but it is sad in many ways too 5 stars
9/29/03 Kyle Superb performance by all - one of the very best films of the 60's. 5 stars
10/16/02 Charles Tatum Remember, these two were cold blooded killers 4 stars
9/21/02 I Can't Swim Hey Sarah, whatsamatter, couldn't find your copy of "A Walk to Remember"? 5 stars
12/05/01 sarah bryant it totaly sucked! 1 stars
10/15/01 Andrew Carden Good Settings, but Wears Off Quickly, and The Characters Are Kind Of Dull. 3 stars
8/31/01 spaceworm seminal 5 stars
6/23/01 JON very nice... with a younger (and hotter) warren beatty... 4 stars
6/17/01 The Bomb 69 excellent movie, i wish i could have seen it in 1967, seems dated now 4 stars
2/16/01 R.W. Welch Slick work. So stylish, in fact, that it never seems quite real. 4 stars
2/14/01 Lee very well crafted 4 stars
2/07/01 Skip Emotional and intense. 5 stars
2/02/01 Wafer pretty good movie 4 stars
1/25/01 Elke Neuville a film with a very deep message 4 stars
11/29/00 Cristopher Revilla great movie, shocking ending, definetely one of the best! 5 stars
8/16/00 Chuck S. possibly the greatest movie ever made ! 5 stars
1/02/00 Julian Yap definitely one of my favourites. see it just to catch faye dunaway in her prime. 5 stars
6/01/99 little jerry This film in 1967 began the greatest decade in film history,ending with Taxi Driver in 1976 5 stars
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  17-Jan-1967 (R)


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