I was reluctant to start watching Terrence Malick's Badlands because I thought I'd be in for another sprawling epic like Days of Heaven. But when my mom informed me that it was only an hour and a half long and about a 1950's midwestern spree killer, I got really excited (those of you that know me at all will know why).
Ultimately I was disappointed in this movie. But before I get to the bad, I'll mention the good. While it wasn't as visually stunning as some of Malick's other films, it had great cinematic moments. For example, the first instant we see the killer-to-be Kit Carruthers' gun peeking out of his back pocket as he sneaks into the house of his young girlfriend, Holly, to drag her away from her protective father is shocking and exciting. And [semi-spoiler alert] the sound of piano keys buckling under the pressure of gasoline when Kit burns down Holly's house is so brilliant it almost had to have come about by accident.
My favorite part in the movie is when the two lovers are on the run and live for a while in the woods. These segments are so wonderfully whimsical. I mean isn't that all anyone really wants out of life, to live in a secluded treehouse with your true love, fishing and stealing fruit from a nearby melon patch?
Despite this, I think Malick isn't really cut out to make movies about murderers. His style is perfect for those aforementioned sprawling epics, but it just lacks spark and pacing for this type of storyline; spark that films like The Honeymoon Killers have, for example. The romance between the protagonists seems flat and unbelievable. Malick barely made an attempt to explore the depths of what went on in the characters' heads. He may have been trying to portray the emptiness inside of killers like Kit Carruthers, but I don't think it translates well onto the screen.
While I was underwhelmed, all of you who aren't serial killer buffs might like this film more than I did.
Rating: 3.5 out of 5 stars