BONNIE AND CLYDE (director: Arthur Penn; screenwriters: David Newman/Robert Benton; cinematographer: Burnett Guffey; editor: Dede Allen; music: Charles Strouse; cast: Warren Beatty (Clyde Barrow), Faye Dunaway (Bonnie Parker), Michael J. Pollard (C.W. Moss), Gene Hackman (Buck Barrow), Estelle Parsons (Blanche Barrow), Denver Pyle (Frank Hamer), Dub Taylor (Ivan Moss), Evans Evans (Velma Davis), Gene Wilder (Eugene Grizzard); Runtime: 111; MPAA Rating: R; producer: Warren Beatty; Warner Home Video; 1967)

"Goes overboard in its homage to a vicious team of bank robbers and killers."

Reviewed by Dennis Schwartz 

A pointless, for entertainment purposes only, stylish Hollywood biopic that goes overboard in its homage to a vicious team of bank robbers and killers, Clyde Barrow and Bonnie Parker, who operated out of Texas and Oklahoma in the post-Depression years. Arthur Penn ("The Chase"/"Alice's Restaurant"/"The Miracle Worker") directs this big box office hit and acclaimed film by making the criminals fun-loving charmers, who are so likable (they even meet on the cute when Clyde tries to steal the car of Bonnie's mom). It's mostly a fairy tale script, with some facts thrown in about the brutal crime spree to preserve the impression it's telling a true story as intended. Screenwriters David Newman and Robert Benton help falsely embellish the inept criminals as colorful folk legends (they were far from being morons, or else they would never have gone on for so long). Its success led to many imitators rewriting the way Hollywood told gangster stories, by shining a bright light on the gangsters as a populist rebels.

In the early 1930's, in Texas, a bored waitress named Bonnie Parker (Faye Dunaway) partners with the brash Clyde Barrow (Warren Beatty) to stage a series of very amateur holdups that gives them more thrills than money. Soon they add the dimwitted garage mechanic C. W. Moss (Michael J. Pollard) to their team as a getaway driver. Finally, they complete the team by adding Clyde's brother Buck (Gene Hackman), recently released from prison, and his wife, Blanche (Estelle Parsons), a whining preacher's daughter. The Barrow team raises the stakes by now robbing banks and committing murder, as they gain notoriety and become subjects of a massive statewide manhunt.

The team hides out in a rented apartment in Joplin, Missouri, and when cornered make their first daring escape from the law. Pleased with their growing legendary status with the public, they become more bold and given to openly bragging about their crimes. At one point they even force a kidnapped Texas Ranger (Denver Pyle) to pose in a photo with them. It leads to the grisly climactic ambush scene, where scores of police riddle the Barrow gang with their firepower.

When the film was first released as a true crime story (even if it was mostly historically inaccurate) it seemed a refreshing new way to shoot a gangster pic, but when viewing it today its stylishness is outdated, the acting by the bad guys which was playful no longer shocks us or warms are hearts in the same way today, and its ugly emptiness (showing violence for the viewer's gratification rather than with any other purpose) leaves a blemish. It's an overrated classic that smugly partners lame hick slapstick comedy with serious crime. But it comes gift wrapped in beauty, due to the timeless Burnett Guffey photography, in brilliantly muted golden colors, which gives it the look of an arty film even if it was just a crass commercial venture that had the good fortune of capturing the rebellious mood of the young people of the counterculture revolutionary 1960s upon its release. The film got over with the young crowd as it identified the criminals as friends of the poor and anti-establishment figures, and it made Beatty and Dunaway stars. It also featured the screen debut of Gene Wilder as a mortician who was captured by the gang.

REVIEWED ON 7/25/2010       GRADE: C+

Dennis Schwartz: "Ozus' World Movie Reviews"