Badlands (1973) starring Martin Sheen, Sissy Spacek, Warren Oates directed by Terrence Malick Movie Review

Badlands (1973)   4/54/54/54/54/5




94 mins



Martin Sheen as Kit in Badlands (1973)

Holly, Kit and Caboodle

Terrence Malick's "Badlands" is the sort of movie which has some reviewers using words such as opus, symphony and a lot of other words which sound fancy. Now I am not saying those reviewers are wrong, each to their own and if fancy sounding words is your thing so be it but I'm more down to earth. So what is my down to earth opinion on Malick's "Badlands" surprisingly engaging, beautiful with warm shots yet frighteningly cold in the story of a young man who kills, it draws us in to this man and his young female companion but keeps us distant from feeling. Yet by the end of the movie, despite watching a cold killing spree we have somehow grown to like this strange duo and the affable manner they deal with things.

To describe the storyline to "Badlands" almost seems pointless because you could sum it up by saying a young man and his fifteen year old lover go on the run after he shoots her father leading to more killings as they try to stay one step ahead of the law. But that doesn't really describe what happens in this movie because in the strangest way not a lot does, in fact despite being wanted by the law are duo Kit and Holly are in fact quite dull. They drive by night, try and get supplies by any means necessary be it running down a cow for meat or robbing a friend whilst like couples do occasionally fall out. But when it comes to the violence of murder there isn't any, no glamour nothing just Kit pointing the gun and pulling the trigger.

Sissy Spacek as Holly in Badlands (1973)

As I said it is as if this dangerous duo are deadly boring but because they are so detached from the killings it makes it strangely fascinating and unpredictable. You never know whether Kit is going to kill someone or not because there is no build up, no angst or tension if he feels like killing he does and whilst often dealing with the body walks away emotionless. That sense of detachment also comes from Holly as well as if this life on the run with Kit is normal as she goes about things in a matter of fact way. It makes "Badlands" hauntingly cold because of this detachment yet Kit and Holly seem quite nice guys whom we ironically warm to, they may be lost souls but they have a pleasant nature about them that it almost feels perverse that we warm to these cold killers.

This perverseness of senses also comes visually because for a movie about cold killers visually it is warm and beautiful. Scene after scene is absolutely beautiful as the sun sets or we see Kit and Holly slow dance in the dark. Many movies have tried to deliver that same strange blend of cold, distance yet warmth and beauty but no one has come close to the mesmerising beauty of "Badlands".

And then there are the performances, Martin Shaw giving us rebel with out a cause to Sissy Spacek's sweet but cold partner. Whilst Sheen as Kit commands your attention, keeping us on edge because of his ability to surprise it is because he and Spacek have this strange but wonderful chemistry that it all comes together.

What this all boils down to is that you may read reviews of "Badlands" which bound big, fancy words about but what you need to know is that it is a brilliant, unforgettable movie which is almost perverse for being dull yet gripping. It is a movie you have to experience to understand and appreciate but you won't regret giving up 94 minutes of your day to do so.