Dramatization of the Starkweather-Fugate killing spree of the 1950’s, in which a teenage girl and her twenty-something boyfriend slaughtered her entire family and several others in the Dakota badlands.

Badlands is the first film in the very interesting career of Terrence Malick. Releasing this film in 1973 and Days of Heaven in 1978, Malick looked to be a very promising writer/director. But then he didn’t release another work for 20 years. In 1998 Malick released The Thin Red Line, which was nominated for 7 Oscars. It is the defining film in Malick’s incredibly unique movie making style. He made A New World 7 years later in 2005, and 6 years after that he released The Tree of Life [2011], which is one of my favorite movies of all time. So in a 29 year career, Malick has written/directed 5 films, but now has 4 films set to release after 2013 is through, which is completely unlike the Malick of the past. With an extremely closed off personal life, I do not know much about Malick’s life, other than summa cum laude graduation from Harvard with a Philosophy degree and his travels and disappearance to Europe after Days of Heaven.

Badlands is a film based off of a true story of a young couple who went on a strange spree of traveling and killing. Martin Sheen plays Kit, the emotionless mid-twenty year old who does odd jobs to make a living doing whatever he does. After leaving work as a garbage man he stumbles across a 15 year old girl twirling her baton in her yard. Her name is Holly, and these two are instantly interested and attracted to each other. After running around with each other behind Holly’s father’s back, he finds out that his daughter is spending time with this loser and forbids them from seeing each other. Kit decides to run away with Holly and go on an adventure across the middle of the country, living on their own.

The cinematography and the narration make this movie into a summer romance film, but not only is it void of emotional connection both between the characters and between the viewers and the characters, but throughout the film our main man kills half a dozen people. You are not really sure why he is doing it, there doesn’t seem to be a motive or a desire to shoot down these people, and Kit just explains the actions in an unenthusiastic fact-of-matter way. They are very strange characters, and they are played really well by the respective actors, even though the emotionless characters probably aren’t the hardest to portray.

It is a new and interesting tale and presentation of a ‘romance’ film, but I feel as if the movie needed something more. I was a bit disinterested as I watched. It was interesting and well made, but I think it didn’t have enough to be a great film.

My Rating

2/4 Badlands is an interesting and new way to see a young romance adventure story with a strange twist to it, but not interesting or strange enough to be a truly great film.


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