Arthur Penn’s Bonnie and Clyde is a definite finalist for the title of quintessential crime duo film, mostly thanks to the notoriety of the real life duo themselves. Making a film of their escapades seemed like the typical decision to make in Hollywood; it was just a matter of finding the right players for the two, and they lucked out by finding Warren Beatty and Faye Dunaway, who each do a spectacular job, and indeed both garnered Oscar nominations. Even the supporting cast, which includes a very young and impressive Gene Hackman as well as the film debut of Gene Wilder, do a great job of supporting the duo in their own ways, but this is more than just a greatly cast film.
In contrast to the much more tempered Badlands, Bonnie and Clyde is all about the criminal exploits of the famed duo. Their romance is only briefly touched upon in their initial meeting, before their amateur crimes start to roll off the conveyor belt one after another. Therein lies the romance; it is the act of robbing banks and committing crimes that gets the two off and keeps them together; that’s all there is to it. They soon pick up a motley crew of gangmates, and together they embark on a wave of a crime spree which takes the nation’s police by storm. The film’s realism is the main selling point; the film often plays like a rodeo sideshow, especially thanks to the banjo music, but when the violence starts, it takes on the gritty realism of a Sam Peckinpah film. This was one of the first major Hollywood productions to utilize a wide arsenal of squibs, and boy do they ever use them; there is so much gunshot and carnage that the film initially drew outcries at the level of violence depicted, before critical appraisal finally swung into the positive range.
This is one of those films you’ve probably heard a lot about, but never got around to seeing, aside from maybe a few clips on Youtube (most likely of the ending massacre of the duo). Well, if you’re still on the fence, I can say that the film is definitely worth the time and investment; this is a classically made film with all the parts in right working order. It’s comic, it’s serious, it’s everything you’d want the film to be. I’m glad to have seen this one, and I have the feeling you will as well.
Arbitrary Rating: 8/10