Pros: Faye Dunaway, Warren Beatty, Gene Wilder, Screenplay, Photography
Cons: Bluegrass score by Flatt and Scruggs may not be the best for everybody.
Romanticized retelling of the story of Depression Era hoodlums Bonnie and Clyde. While the real Bonnie and Clyde were nowhere near as photogenic as Warren Beatty and Faye Dunaway, late sixties audiences were thrilled by the depiction of the good looking couple in their personal moments punctuated by shocking snippets of mayhem that set a new standard for screen violence. The films bullet riddled finale was a screen first, although soon followed by Sam Peckinpahs ballet of death in 1969s The Wild Bunch.
For a film that Producer Warren Beatty literally had to beg Warner Bros to back, Bonnie and Clyde did pretty well for itself, gathering a pair of Oscars and making stars of Beatty, Faye Dunaway, and Gene Hackman, as well as introducing a very funny comedian, Gene Wilder. Wilder plays a mild mannered fellow who gets kidnapped by the Barrow Gang when he pursues them for stealing his car. In an interesting role reversal we get to see as yet unknown comedian Wilder subjected to jokes told by actor Gene Hackman.
The story is about as accurate as any gangster movies is. Bonnie sees Clyde casing her mothers car before stealing it and stops him in the attempt. He gets to see her naked leaning out of her second floor window, unfortunately the camera only shows Clydes reaction to the sight. Bonnie hurriedly dons some clothes and runs down stairs. Clyde walks downtown with her after she tells him shes going to work. Downtown, he buys them each a Coca Cola then robs the store, steals a car and they escape. Bonnie is overcome with lust and is all over Clyde while he is trying to drive the getaway car. We find out Clyde is impotent, but Bonnie decides to accompany him anyway. Anything is better than being a waitress in that one-horse town.
Along the way they pick up Clydes brother Buck (Gene Hackman), his wife Blanche (Estelle Parsons), and a half-wit mechanic C.W. Moss (Michael J. Pollard). The Barrow gang robs quite a few places and racks up around thirteen murders before a police ambuscade puts paid to their crime spree.
The script is quite good and has a number of witty exchanges, like the following:
Bonnie: What kinda car is this?
C.W. Moss: This is a four cylinder Ford Coupe.
Bonnie: No. This is a STOLEN four cylinder Ford Coupe.
Director Arthur Penn did a good job in building tension, starting with the light hearted way the couple began their spree and turning up the anxiety level as the first murder takes place, through the various shootouts, until a great sense of foreboding is present at the reunion with Bonnies mother, shortly before the end.
Warren Beatty does a good job as the fairly dumb but good looking Clyde Barrow while strikingly beautiful Faye Dunaway set a fashion trend with her hairstyle, berets, and maxi-skirts. I dont think Faye Dunaway has done a better performance than Bonnie Parker, showing her sexual frustration and mounting fear for the future as the end comes nearer and nearer. Gene Hackman put in one of the first of his many good performances that would lead to his portrayal of Popeye Doyle in The French Connection a few years hence. Estelle Parsons snagged a Best Supporting Actress Academy Award for her shrill, nagging, screaming performance as the unpleasant character Blanche.
Bonnie and Clyde has been credited as inspiring such films as Badlands, Thelma and Louise, and Natural Born Killers. Warren Beatty went on to play gangster Bugsy Siegel in the 1991 film Bugsy.
For those who would like to see other true gangster stories, I recommend
Dillinger http://www.epinions.com/mvie-review-7A7B-A2E1F14-38E4ED5E-prod5 and
The Newton Boys http://www.epinions.com/mvie-review-47F-B5B1AD6-3A1996CA-prod4
For those interested, here is the FBI's freedom of information act file on Bonnie and Clyde.