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Reviewed January 3rd, 2002 by David Nusair


Badlands, Terrence Malickís first film, is based on the true-life exploits of a Bonnie and Clyde-esque couple that went on a killing spree one summer back in the Ď60s. Sissy Spacek and Martin Sheen star as that couple, and the film essentially follows their exploits Ė from their initial meeting one lazy afternoon, to their eventual downfall.

The style of the movie is a leisurely one; Malick is in no rush to tell this story and allows the story to play out very deliberately. Though itís been called one of the pivital movies of the 1970s, it doesnít really hold up today. While it does contain two terrific performances and a sense of style thatís incredibly evocative of that time period, the laid back pace makes it near impossible to get into the movie.

But what is good here are the performances. As the charismatic and deadly killer, Sheen plays a character completely unlike any heíd ever played before. This guy can be your best friend one second, and your executioner the next (a scenario that actually plays out at one point). Heís compared to James Dean several times during the movie, and thatís certainly an apt observation. Heís got that same aura of mystery and danger surrounding him, though Dean obviously never brutally murdered anyone in cold blood. As for Spacek, if you only know her for her most famous role (Carrie White in Carrie), youíre in for something of a surprise. Though she doesnít quite look as though sheís actually 15-years-old (the age of her character), she perfectly embodies the cockiness and apathetic attitude of a teenager. Itís easy enough to see why she would take up with the Sheen character Ė he can offer her the one thing thatís been missing from her life: Excitement.

So, while the direction by Malick is quite good and the performances are extraordinary, Badlands never quite makes it.

Audio: Badlands is presented with a DD 2.0 soundtrack and itís acceptable. Thereís no flashy ambient sounds here, with the sound remaining squarely in the front end of your setup. But it sounds good, so itís hard to complain.

Video: Given that this was one of Warnerís first releases, this could have been a lot worse. What we get is an anamorphic 1.85:1 transfer which is occasionally quite grainy but generally acceptable. That itís even anamorphic is pretty amazing, given that most studios didnít jump on that bandwagon until late in the game.

Extras: Nothing. Not even a trailer.

Conclusion: Badlands is worth a look, but the complete lack of extras make this appealing for die-hard fans only.


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