Thursday, July 17, 2014

560. BADLANDS (1973)

Running Time: 93 minutes
Directed By: Terrence Malick
Written By: Terrence Malick
Main Cast: Martin Sheen, Sissy Spacek, Warren Oates, Ramon Bieri, Alan Vint
Click here to view the trailer

Note: Finally finished off Fargo (TV Series) and I have to say it was fantastic! Seriously, this was a great homage to the film and you could really tell that the creators of the show had utmost respect for the Coen's film. I've heard mixed reports on whether or not this has been picked up for another season, but I for one would LOVE to see it run in the same vein as American Horror Story, where we get a brand new story each season, perhaps even using some of the same actors. I think their challenge next time will be separating it from this series and the movie. I think anyone who's seen the series will admit that it shared many similarities to the film, in that each character was seemingly patterned after one of the characters from the movie. They obviously can't do that every time, so can they make another, separate series? Apart from that, you just had to love Billy Bob Thornton in this. I said on Twitter that I'd rarely seen him better and I meant that. Martin Freeman was also fantastic and really there wasn't a bad apple in the bunch as far as the cast went. The other outstanding factor of this series was the camera work. Just unbelievable, too good for free TV stuff. If you missed it, pick it up on DVD when it comes out, especially if you're a fan of the film and keep an eye out for all those hidden references to the original movie. Now then...


My wife's working one of her rare evening shifts tonight, which means I had about four hours to kill between the time I got off work and the time she gets off work, which meant...MOVIE TIME! And hey, I even I had a spare hour or so to get the review taken care of too. This is of course an ode to the final two Terrence Malick films in the BOOK. If I'd been thinking, we could've made this a "hat trick", but I'd already watched The Thin Red Line last year, so that was out. Badlands and Days of Heaven are supposedly his finest two works anyway, so better to lump them together.

At it's bare bones, the film is your typical love on the run film - a more realistic approach to the Bonnie & Clyde scenario - with a little more poetry via a Sissy Spacek narration, Martin Sheen giving the performance of his career and a talented cameraman grabbing one of a kind shots. It all kicks off when Kit Carruthers (Sheen), an uneducated garbageman meets and immediately falls for Holly (Spacek). The only problem is, is that he's twenty-five and she's only fifteen. Holly's father (Oates) obviously disapproves and during a scene where Kit goes to ask for his approval, her father blatantly tells him to stay away. That night, Kit sneaks into the house and begins packing a bag for Holly. When her father sees him and questions his actions, Kit becomes a bit irate and shoots him, killing him. Holly is, at first, upset with Kit, but ultimately decides to go with him, as the couple plan to exit South Dakota (where the film begins) and go where the road takes them. They first take refuge in a wooded area, building a labyrinth of treehouses and elaborate traps, to catch anyone that may be after them. They live like savages for a while, a Tarzan and Jane couple with shades of Bonne & Clyde (Kit fishing using a pistol) and things seem to be hunky dory for a while. They're eventually found and Kit has to shoot his way out of another situation, killing three this time. It becomes a widely publicized story, the fugitives Kit and Holly and the two are officially on the run, killing anyone who get in their way.

I had seen this once before and according to a combination of my memory and IMDB, I wasn't THAT crazy about it - barely remembering it and only having it marked as a '6' on the movie site. I actually took to it quite a bit more this time around and even wondered why I hadn't recalled this one more fondly. I was dog tired when I got off work (as per usual), so coming out of the shower and plopping down on the bed with a good movie was just what the doctor ordered. Also, sort of a risky move, as sometimes I'm so dog tired that I just can't keep focused on a good movie and my eyelids become like anchors. This one was really easy to slip into though, providing an easy to follow plot, interesting characters, real life dialogue and a backdrop that was relatable. In fact, I applaud the way Malick was able to slip in the real snobby elements - you know, the ones that make the film snobs gush. At first, Spacek's narration is just like any other narration, a girl reading from prospective diary entries. And then you realize how literary they sound and honestly, I was shocked to read that this WASN'T an adapted work, as the narration seems like Spacek just reading lines out of a great novel:

"He needed me now more than ever, but something had come between us. I'd stopped even paying attention to him. Instead I sat in the car and read a map and spelled out entire sentences with my tongue on the roof of mouth where nobody could read them."

Tell me that's not brilliant writing...

And then, of course, there's that camera work, which provided me with a multitude of shots to choose from for this very post, but ultimately I had to decide on three. It's funny because the characters don't really deserve this good of a movie. When you think of this heathen Kit Carruthers, poetic lines and visual artistry don't spring to mind and maybe that's why this film stands out as such a great one - because it creates a mash-up of such beauty and such ugliness.

I should stop to say something about the fact that these characters become celebrities from being violent, but is it worth even mentioning this in a day & age when this sort of thing has become so commonplace? Even today people who take guns inside fitness centers and schools get glorified by the media, whether this is the media's intention or not. Kit Carruthers has good intentions, yet by the time he's carried out all of his "work", his intentions seem to be lacking anything good. This would be a fine time to mention Martin Sheen and the stellar performance he turned in, turning his thirty-something self into a twenty-something, transforming his voice into a drawled dialect and a character worthy of dissection, a sort of dirt road Travis Bickle, with far less complications. I won't go into the dissection at this time, because it probably wouldn't turn out that good and in fact, I think I'll call that a review. Certainly a film worth your time for all the reasons I mentioned above. It has few flaws, not even any really worth committing to paper though. For some reason, Malick would make Days of Heaven five years later and then disappear from the movie scene altogether until 1998 and The Thin Red Line. Has he ever given any explanation as to his disappearance?

RATING: 7.5/10  Can't go '8' because then you're talking a whole other ballpark, but it's damn close and perhaps come recap time it'll win me over by sticking with me.


July 17, 2014  7:05pm


  1. I only saw this once, and it was quite a while back. I remember liking it quite a bit. Your review reminded me of some things in this movie, and made me want to watch it again. Great job.

    1. Hey, thanks! Glad I could jog your memory and make you want to see it again. Mission accomplished on my end!

  2. Good morning Andrew..
    I'm afraid I have been a little sparse in my feedback of late.. a combination of things.. getting back into the swing after your hiatus.. but more, a string of films that I've not really had much to say about..
    If I strongly dislike a film, we can have a good chat about it (you probably saw a flurry of back and forth between Amanda, Larry and myself over on Amanda's about gore fest films,.. Amanda and I together n or views.. and then Larry and I together on Ingmar Bergman).
    Also if it's a film I'm a great fan of and I want to spread the word... but lately.. a few I've not been all that keen on..but nothing I felt I could add anything of importance or interest to the debate about..
    A decided favourite of mine... One of the very first I watched purely because it was 'In The Book', and thanked it for having me watch.
    In theory I shouldn't like it.. an obnoxious lad exploits a rather naive (bordering on simple??) lass, and they get all 'cool' by killing people for the hell of it.
    But something about this just grabbed me and swung me along all the way. Oh, not in the sympathetic with the guy way.. I finished still thinking he was an asshole (do you mind me saying 'asshole in your blog??).. but just as a study of them and the reaction to them
    OK, it had great things to prop it up.. the photography.. especially use of light (Mallick's trade mark .magic hour') was stunning, and the soundtrack seemed to fit so well.
    But above all, magnificent cast playing difficult roles to perfection.
    Loved it.

    1. Asshole is a-ok with me Ray, obscenities don't bother me, but I appreciate your asking.

      Yeah, I'd definitely call Spacek's character simple, for sure. I'm actually really surprised you like this one. Just not something I'd peg you as a fan of. Glad you did though, and yeah, definitely a good one and too bad Malick disappeared for 20 years.


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