Terence Malick's debut film, 1973's Badlands, would be disturbing enough if it weren't based on a true story, but sadly, it is. Martin Sheen stars as Kit Carruthers, a directionless adolescent who just wants more fun out of life. But when he is forbidden to see his 15-year-old girlfriend Holly (Sissy Spacek) by her father, the soft-spoken South Dakota youth shoots him, and he and Holly embark on a week-long killing spree that leads them to the barren plains of Montana. Malick based his fictional tale on the real-life events of Charlie Starkweather and Carol Fugate, two teenagers who also went on a crime spree in 1957 that shocked the nation, but Malick's directorial choices in Badlands avoid the gratuitous shocks one might expect from such material. Instead of focusing on the murders, Malick spends most of his time with his two leading characters, allowing us to eavesdrop on their mindless conversations and their imagined, contrived inner dramas. Ultimately, we are left with the paradoxical impression that these are just unsophisticated kids, not bloodthirsty savages, forcing us to wonder how on earth two children could kill so many people and not care about it. The genius of Badlands is that Malick leaves such questions unanswered. Good transfer from clean source print, DD 5.1, no extras, good street price.
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