'Bonnie & Clyde: Justified' Is a Filmic Crime on Par with the Dastardly Duo Themselves

This ultra low-budget "period piece" misses its chance to be inventive and artistic and instead devolves into the direct-to-DVD debacle that it is.

Bonnie & Clyde: Justified

Director: David DeCoteau
Cast: Ashley Hayes, Jim Poole, Eric Roberts, Dee Wallace, Jean Louise O'Sullivan, Ross Wyngaarden
Length: 90 minutes
Studio: Rapid Heart Pictures
Year: 2013
Distributor: Lionsgate
MPAA Rating: PG-13
US Release date: 2013-11-05

We’ve all heard the story of Bonnie & Clyde. How they lived and how they died. The tale has given many a kick and many are kicking for more. Thus, this 2013 direct-to-video movie called Bonnie & Clyde: Justified seeks to fill that void and, with luck, get you to fork over $26.98 from your hard earned paycheck for the privilege of witnessing the proceedings.

Take my advice and do not make this tragic mistake. If Bonnie & Clyde were able to send you a message from the afterlife, their advice might be to steal the movie. I advise you against doing this as well, considering the fact that even when watched free of charge, Bonnie & Clyde: Justified is a heinous waste of time and a filmic crime on par with those of the dastardly duo themselves.

The script for this digital disaster comes from the pen of Rolfe Kanefsky, the man behind the terrible 2004 zombie film, Corpses, and a series of z-movie sexploitation flicks like Sex Files, The Erotic Misadventures of the Invisible Man and Emmanuelle's Supernatural Sexual Activity -- none of which seem to have been on PopMatters short-list for high-priority reviews.

Although Kanefsky has some experience as a “director”, the executive producers went for someone with over 100 directing credits to his name in the form of David DeCoteau (who also produced). A sampling of DeCoteau’s masterpieces would include Sorority Babes in the Slimeball Bowl-O-Rama, Test Tube Teens from the Year 2000, 1313: Bigfoot Island and the lion’s share of the Puppet Master sequels.

In spite of the film’s pedigree, there is no Cinemax After Dark-style sexy comedy, nor is there any tongue-in-cheek silliness found in the intentionally bad Troma-style films. Instead, Bonnie & Clyde: Justified is Kanefsky and DeCoteau’s attempt at a serious period drama with faint sepia filters, appropriate costumes and rented old timey cars to complete the illusion. What’s more, the expected violence and sexuality is toned down significantly to earn Bonnie & Clyde: Justified a mere PG-13 rating, which is a far cry from the duo’s most watched films. The rating doesn’t make this a better film.

Eric Roberts receives top billing for his cameo appearance as Frank, a former law enforcement officer hired to track the title bank robbers while the only other recognizable name thespian in the film is Dee Wallace, who plays Bonnie’s long suffering mother. Bonnie herself is played by the pretty young redheaded actress Ashley Hayes who, in spite of her “cute” appearance, can be decidedly menacing and tough as the gunslinging Bonnie Parker.

The duo is rounded out by Jim Poole’s Clyde Barrow, a man with a history with crime and incarceration. As played by Poole, Clyde is more of a relaxed fashion model than a criminal mastermind and his pensively introspective moments (contemplating the title “justification”) are hardly convincing.

However, the acting here isn’t really the issue. Although few of the performances are truly convincing (Wallace’s performance is earnest and subdued, but Roberts’ is intentionally cartoonish and far-from-serious) much of this seems to fall at the feet of the director than the actors'. This ultra-low budget affair seems rushed in almost every scene, especially the more tender and thoughtful moments which the story (such that it is) needs to be believable in order for the overall film to be worth watching.

Sadly, the film really isn’t worth watching. The action is as forced as the “period” in this piece, the gun barrels are plugged (and DeCoteau didn’t seem to care enough about realism to avoid close-ups of these weapons) and the audio and lighting are both distinctly challenged. Even with the skilled and experienced score of Harry Manfredini (the Friday the 13th films), the music doesn’t cut the mustard and fails to impress. The aforementioned tender and contemplative scenes are mixed so that one can imagine Manfredini sitting at a piano in the room with the title duo, practicing. I half expected Clyde to glance off camera and say “Harry, do you MIND?”, possibly followed by “LINE?”

The best thing I can say about Bonnie & Clyde: Justified is that even with the bad script (which feels as if it was written with Wikipedia as its guide) the audience will eventually want to see where the film is going and get some kind of resolution. Unfortunately, this destitute drama finishes with a non-ending that gives the impression that the producers ran out of money. It would be a let-down if the viewer had truly been given much of a promise to begin with.

On that same note, the closest thing to bonus features on this DVD are previews for other films (of similar budget) as well as for Bonnie & Clyde: Justified itself, a still gallery and (most spectacularly) the option to view the film with Spanish subtitles. At best the film is an enticement to the viewer to look back at the lives of Bonnie Parker and Clyde Barrow (beyond Wikipedia) and perhaps watch the better films made on the subject. There's no real justification for watching or re-watching this film, however.


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