“An impressionable teenage girl from a dead-end town and her older greaser boyfriend embark on a killing spree in the South Dakota badlands.”
Director: Terrence Malick
Writers: Terrence Malick
Staring: Martin Sheen, Sissy Spacek
Release Date: January 5, 1974
Streaming: HBO MAX
Martin Sheen, you handsome, super-talented son of a bitch. Sissy Spacek, what a come out party and what a perfectly delivered voiceover. Badlands is a 93-minute story about young love, unblemished ignorance, obsessive love and lovable twisted Ted Bundy-esq charisma.
Kit (Martin Sheen) is a young 20s kid struggling to keep a job and find a purpose. His life changed when he sees Holly (Sissy Spacek) and almost instantly falls in love with her. Her feelings begin to develop and the pair have a forbidden relationship. It all comes off the rails when Holly’s Father (Warren Oats) finds Kit packing Holly’s bags. He tells the Father that he and Holly (without her knowing), and he didn’t like that.
Then comes the first kill. The first of many. Kit kills Holly’s father, and the pair begin a life in the woods and on the run. Over the course of the remainder of the story, Kit kills policemen, friends and random individuals. Holly is along for the ride, still under the charm of Kit’s propulsive charisma. The love story is twisted, but someone relatable, especially from the view point of Holly.
Who can’t relate to falling head of heels for the wrong person? Let alone the first person to show you affection and praise. That is what happened to Holly, and those who have been in her shoes know that all it takes is time for the love goggles to become broken. There is a parallel character arc surrounding the disenchanted Holly is feeling towards Kit.
Martin Sheen, as Kit, gives a star-making performance. The quiet, introverted, confident character of Kit is both intoxicating and scary. Kit is compared to James Dean throughout the movie, and it makes sense not only in the way he looks but also the way he acts. Calm, cool and collected. A man who seemingly always has a plan while also embracing the idea that fate is the ultimate decider.
The parallel of Holly’s self-realization is Kit’s self-infatuation with fame. He was a wanderer without a purpose, that is until he found his confidence while pulling the trigger of his gun. He never loses his manners or charm, but he loses the point on his compass. He was following a magnetic pull toward a sense of self-confidence and self-importance; he didn’t know where it was taking him…till the very end.
When Kit gets captured by the cops and surrenders on his own accord, its him happily accepting the bed he made for himself. The cops chasing him have a reverence for him, and that is shown to a larger extent when Kit is literally holding court while in chains at an airplane hanger. That is why the Ted Bundy comparison is apparent. People were in love with the guy, for whatever twisted reason. Kit was a killer, but he killed in the name of love and was polite about it. He had an intangible quality, a James Dean Smile. Martin Sheen was perfect playing the part. He made everyone around him love him, and its hard not to love his character in the movie despite all his quiet controlling traits.
Badlands is now a top choice movie for me in the “Teenage Angst” genre. It is up there in terms of exploring innocence with the likes of Perks Of Being A Wallflower (2012) and Rebel Without A Cause (1955). Couldn’t recommend Badlands enough.
STANKO RATING: A (4.5/5 Stars)