A groundbreakingly violent film, Bonnie and Clyde hilariously feels tame by today’s standards, but is still an excellent if romanticised approach to the titular gangster couple.
Bonne and Clyde (1967) is a biographical crime/drama directed by Arthur Penn and stars Faye Dunaway and Warren Beatty as Bonnie and Clyde respectively, two lovers thrilled by the pursuit of law-breaking and easy money. Loosely following their true-story escapades, Bonnie and Clyde follows the titular couple from the first meeting to their inevitable gratuitous demise at the hands of the law.
Bonnie and Clyde may have been known as a shockingly violent and sexual film at the time of its release, but the benefit of almost 50 years makes the bloodless shootouts seem tame by contemporary standards. That’s not to say the action isn’t well done – its shot quick, feels (mostly) authentic, and is paced very well. The pacing of the film overall is simply superb. While there are dull moments, they never outstay their welcome and are always followed by something violent or exciting. It keeps it far more engaging than many other films from the period.
The plot is equally as focused. The film opens with them meeting, follows them as they play Grand Theft Auto across 1930s America, and then closes at their death. There’s no major subplots, no extraneous details, and simply no fat. That does mean the screenplay cut out large chunks of Bonnie and Clyde’s actual criminal spree, making this far from a faithful adaption, but definitely still an enjoyable one.
And anchoring the gleefully illegal proceedings is the leading duo of Beatty and Dunaway. And they’re both great. Both the actors and screenplay make the titular criminals relatable, funny and even sympathetic – they may do bad things, but according to Bonnie and Clyde they ain’t truly bad people. That in mind, its unsurprising people in the 60s were terrified it was glorifying violence.
The supporting cast however is a bit hit and miss. While Gene Hackman’s turn as brother Buck Barrow is great, and Michael J. Pollard as Moss is cleverly forgettable, Estelle Parsons is almost unforgiveable as Blanche. Its not that the performance is poor, but the character does almost nothing but scream and complain, both traits that get grating within the first 10 minutes of meeting her. And she won a best supporting Oscar for the role! Chock that up to another incomprehensible Academy decision.
But aside from the perpetually screaming Blanche, Bonnie and Clyde is a classic that has not only aged well, but is still just as engaging as it was almost 50 years ago. A great screenplay, solid performances and an almost perfect pace will keep these outlaw legends in the limelight for years to come.
General Audiences: Highly Recommended
Film Buffs: Must-see