Two for the price of two. A recommendation following a review.
First up, the review:
I’m not really a fan of Terrence Malick. I know a lot of people are, and I respect his body of work, but I tend to not entirely enjoy his movies. That being said, I’ve only seen three out of the (so far) publicly available five.
The first Malick film I saw was The Thin Red Line, and I wasn’t exactly bowled over. I loved the cutaway shots to nature ‘going about it’s business’, exhibiting the ultimate pointlessness of human beings waring with one another. However, the rest of it just felt like an unstructured, long, chaotic mess. I know people say that this is ‘supposed to be the point’, but it didn’t do the movie any favours either way.
Then I saw Tree of Life. Just as before; some good stuff, but more bad stuff. I went in distraught at the idea of watching what looked like a 139 minute long cinematography showreel. In the end the ‘birth of the universe’ sequences turned out to be my favourite part of the film. As I like my science, it was nice to see a filmic depiction of a rarely dramatised part of natural history. I could have watched that stuff for quite some time, albeit with maybe a bit of David Attenborough voiceover to help explain the details. Alas, however, Terrence was intent on bringing us back to Brad Pitts family. Snore!
So then, I think to myself; maybe Terrence Malick wasn’t so self-prostletising and swollen with his earlier films. Turns out I was right.
I watched Badlands, and I really liked it. It had a few interesting characters, a basic structure, and a shocking (yet entertaining) plot:
A 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.
Vigilanteism, fugitive lovers, violence, and it’s all “based on a true story”. It’s a proper film. One of those movies that Malick lovers and haters alike can enjoy. Good shit!
Malick himself even has a cameo.
It’s not entirely free of “Malickisms” by any means, but they’re the ones I like. For example; the callousness of the main characters. Their entirely practical-based view of their own actions is chilling and the excuses they make for themselves are scary to listen to. Malick seems to have decided that the sort of people who can go on a killing spree like this must be void of moral self-reflection and see themselves as victims of the world. There’s also a large ego involved, evident by some of the things that Martin Sheen’s character says. I think it’s a fantastic film that makes you think about the potential in other people and the power of emotions. The delusions of love can kill.
Alright, that’s the review over. Now, a genetically related recommendation:
Want to know what a movie like Badlands would be like if it was rewritten by Quentin Tarantino? Well there are two movies out there which were exactly that, Natural Born Killers and True Romance. Natural Born Killers is crap, so I’m not gonna waste my time with it. Instead I’m gonna focus all my attention on getting you to watch True Romance.
Plot as follows:
Clarence marries a hooker named Alabama, steals cocaine from her pimp, and tries to sell it in Hollywood, while the owners of the coke try to reclaim it.
So it’s a twisted, largely altered, remake of Badlands. The core concept of a fleeing couple in love stays intact, but in this version the main characters are not ruthless killers. Instead they have to outrun and avoid all the people trying to kill them. It’s directed by Tony Scott (of Top Gun, Crimson Tide, and Man on Fire), and if that doesn’t impress you – just look at the cast:
Come on, all those people together in the same movie? Admit it, it makes your nipples hard.
In fact, it’s such an amazing mix of ingredients that I think it’s actually a better movie than Badlands. Badlands was great, True Romance is greater. It’s a flashy, fun, ninety’s hit n’ run. Every time you think the movie can’t get better, it does. This is the closest thing to a romantic movie Quentin Tarantino has ever written, with all manner of blood, bullets, and love.
True Romance (1993) trailer
Go watch it with your girlfriend, boyfriend, hermaphroditefriend, whatever. Get cozy, cause this is a movie to snuggle to.
By the way; if you’re confused about the title of this post, try ‘youtube’ing it and then watching both films. You’ll see how it all fits together.
– Rant Over!