1934. Young adults Bonnie Parker, a waitress, and Clyde Barrow, a criminal just released from prison, are immediately attracted to what the other represents for their life when they meet by chance in West Dallas, Texas. Bonnie is fascinated with Clyde's criminal past, and his matter-of-factness and bravado in talking about it. Clyde sees in Bonnie someone sympatico to his goals in life. Although attracted to each other physically, a sexual relationship between the two has a few obstacles to happen. Regardless, they decide to join forces to embark on a life of crime, holding up whatever establishments, primarily banks, to make money and to have fun. They don't plan on hurting anyone physically or killing anyone despite wielding loaded guns. They amass a small gang of willing accomplices, including C.W. Moss, a mechanic to fix whatever cars they steal which is important especially for their getaways, and Buck Barrow, one of Clyde's older brothers. The only reluctant tag-along is Buck's ... Written by
The movie that made it okay to sympathize with murderers...
First of all, let me say that I'm appalled by the real life Bonnie and Clyde. They were two psychopathic thrill killers from Dallas who had a special hatred for law enforcement officers. I must admit that I do feel sorry for the way they were killed, but like the old axiom goes, "If you live by the sword, you die by the sword."
That said, the movie "Bonnie and Clyde" was a groundbreaking film. It was the first time that we the audience were allowed inside the killers minds, and could see what made them tick. This is perhaps the first film that takes a somewhat objective look at crime; we the audience don't have "FBI Seal of Approval" morality shoved down our throats, but we still can tell by the actions of the characters that they are evil, whether they know it or not.
The story is of two Texas young adults who, bored with their lives and the prospects of going nowhere in the world, decide to live out their dreams of stardom by going on a crime spree. They fancy themselves a sort of "Romeo and Juliet" couple, and think of their robberies as harmless fun. They start out small by knocking over grocery stores and gas stations, but soon graduate to banks when they need more money to accommodate their lifestyle. Soon they have a simple minded gas clerk named C.W. and Clyde's brother and wife in the gang, and the duo goes down into history.
Then the fun and games are over. With law enforcement officials now looking for Bonnie and Clyde, they become targets of bounty hunters, unethical cops and other greedy persons who wish to make a name for themselves, and they lose a part of their childish innocence as the escalation of their crimes makes them become more and more violent. When death finally comes for Bonnie and Clyde, it comes with a vengeance.
Warren Beatty and Faye Dunaway have never been better. Beatty, who plays Clyde Barrow as an impotent, ne'er do well country boy who seems to be sowing his wild oats, is in top form. He makes Clyde likable, with a goofy smile perpetually pasted on his face, even when sticking up a bank with two guns in his hands. Dunaway is the ultimate femme fatale as Bonnie Parker, a sweet natured Southern belle who likes the feel of a .38 in her hands as she politely asks for all the money. It's absurd, it's unrealistic, but hey, it's Hollywood. And the film works.
But most importantly, Bonnie and Clyde are in love. It's a kind of love that only few films afterward have been able to equal. There is a genuine feeling of giddy romance between the two no matter what the scene, be it a bank robbery or family get-together away from the reaches of society.
Arthur Penn was obviously a man on a mission when he directed this film. You could sense with every frame that he knew of the importance of this movie; a cinematic masterpiece that dares to make its audience evoke pathos for what would have been banned just a few years earlier.
The finale is still to this day a triumph of audience manipulation. The two bandits, finally captured and unable to escape, are dealt with in a fashion that will haunt you days after viewing. It's sad, it's disgusting, but it brings closure to the lives of two individuals whose works and existence could not be tolerated by the powers that be.
The movie "Bonnie and Clyde" inspired a generation of film makers to look at cinema in a different light. Actions movies were allowed to be funny from this point; funny movies could get away with violence. On the negative side, however, the film changed the morals of Hollywood by allowing murder to be dealt with in such a nonchalant fashion.
Sure, Claude is obviously shaken up after his first kill, as are Bonnie and C.W., but from that point on violence against law officials is no longer a problem. The police in this film are rather like the way gangsters used to be portrayed; a collection of stupid, soulless individuals who only want to ruin Bonnie and Clyde's fun.
In the end, this in an excellent film about Depression era gangsters. Most ironically, however, is that it seems dedicated to the two real life robbers who don't deserve such an honor of having a film legacy created in their names.
10 stars. Innovative, fresh, and hey, it helped pave the way for "Dillinger", my favorite movie in the robber-gangster genre.
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