“Bored waitress Bonnie Parker falls in love with an ex-con named Clyde Barrow and together they start a violent crime spree through the country, stealing cars and robbing banks.”

Director: Arthur Penn
Writers: David Newman, Robert Benton, Robert Towne
Staring: Warren Beatty, Faye Dunaway, Michael J. Pollard, Gene Hackman, Estelle Parsons, Denver Pyle
Release Date: August 14, 1967

Bonnie And Clyde (1967) is a romance movie with banks heists as its backdrop.

Ex-con and all-around charismatic bad boy Clyde Barrow (Warren Beatty) locks eyes with bored waitress Bonnie Parker (Faye Dunaway), and the rest is history. The two fall madly in love with one another and together they traverse the mid-west, robbing banks and wreaking havoc on police departments. Bonnie and Clyde hook up with Clyde’s brother Buck (Gene Hackman) and his wife Blanche (Estelle Parsons), resulting in new challenges and dynamics on the road. While the family kick up dust on the roads, Frank Hamer (Denver Pyle) is on the hunt for bandits, looking for justice and retribution.

Faye Dunaway’s performance as Bonnie Parker is the a-number-one performer, but happy to be the still very worthy Robin to her Batman is Warren Beatty. The most emotional movies in the movie involve the pair alone together. The way they work around one another and have the youthful playfulness of ignorant high school crushes is on odd but compelling dynamic with the way they act when they are in the banks committing the robbery. Bonnie And Clyde does an exceptional job of making the “bad guys” the ones that you are rooting for. It is emblematic of Robin Hood to an extent; stealing from the rich…but keeping for themselves.

The most impressive Dunaway part of the movie comes when she reunites with her mother (Mabel Cavitt) after years of being away from home. She is desperate to see her mom and be kind to her, but the smile plastered on her face is not enough to have her mother disown her with a forever goodbye at the end of it. Dunaway hurts, but she also has closure. She doesn’t need to care anymore; she doesn’t need to have guilt about it. Maybe she still will, and maybe she should, but her own mom said don’t come back and don’t worry about me. Imagine how cold that must be.

Warren Beatty’s portrayal of Clyde Barrow is not your typical alpha-male running from the law type of guy. He is not like Martin Sheen as Kit in Badlands (1973). There is charisma a plenty in both characters, by Clyde has himself some hidden character traits that humanize him. The screenplay by David Newman, Robert Benton and Robert Towne spotlights how Clyde, despite being a very conventionally attractive man, is not a physical lover. He doesn’t need sex and he doesn’t necessarily chase after it even in his relationship with the stunning Bonnie. We see how this affects the couple on the run, and we also see the moment where Clyde and Bonnie do finally be with one another. If you are watching the movie, you know this is an important moment for the dynamic duo, but it is also a foreshadowing movement. If you know the rules that Scream (1996) laid out, if you have sex, then you are in trouble.

Bonnie And Clyde is well acted all the way around, and that proof is in its Oscar nominations. Dunaway and Beatty were nominated for the leading roles. Michael J, Pollard and Gene Hackman were nominated for Best Supporting Actor for their roles of C.W. Moss and Buck Barrow, and Estelle Parsons won the Best Supporting Actress award for playing Blanche. There have only been 15 movies in history have had an Oscar nominee in every acting category, and only four that ever had a total of five nominations with one additional in a category. That is a great pedigree to have.

If I had to rank the performances in my arbitrary way:

  1. Faye Dunaway
  2. Warren Beatty
  3. Gene Hackman
  4. Estelle Parsons
  5. Michael J. Pollard

Bonnie Clyde is not just an actors showcase, but also a technical one. Most memorable about the experience is the audio. These gunshots are LOUD. They are in your face. The spontaneous moments of violence that are interjections in their twisted road trip saga are fast and in your face. The noise honestly reminded me a lot of Michael Mann’s Heat (1995). The pistols and the Tommy Gun bullets that are ricocheting around the Midwestern plains will rattle your bones.

Visually there are certain moments that standout. The car chase through the plains and the tall weeds with the tire tracks behind them is a great look. The old fashioned cars gunning up of the hill just has great cobs and robbers vibe to it. Also the ending sequence is wonderfully framed. I am of a state of mind that Francis Ford Coppola took some hints from Oscar nominated Arthur Penn in the way that he killed off Sonny (James Caan). The car setting, the seemingly innocent person setting up the victim, then ducking for cover as the bullets start reigning in from an unsuspecting location.

I understand how and why Bonnie And Clyde stands the test of time. It is a blockbuster-esq type of movie with the crime and robbery aspect, but it is elevated to a way where it has to be respected for being more than just money-generator. It won two Oscars and was nominated for ten. It is not on the National Board of Review’s top ten of 1967, but it is ranked number 27 on AFI’s Top 100 movies of all-time. The performances are hard to forget. Even a shocking Gene Wilder appearance is worth the ticket! Bonnie And Clyde is fantastic.

STANKO RATING: B+ (4.0/5 Stars)

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