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Overall Rating: 3.50 based on 2 ratings
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ItemImageDirected by Terrence Malick and starring Martin Sheen, Sissy Spacek, Warren Oates, Ramon Bieri, Alan Vint, Gary Littlejohn, John Carter, Bryan Montgomery, Gail Threlkeld, Charles Fitzpatrick, Howard Ragsdale, John Womack Jr., Dona Baldwin, and Ben Bravo, released in 1973.

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Reviews for Badlands  1-2 OF 2

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edt4 (110)
Very loosely based on the 1950's killing spree of James-Dean wanna-be Charles Starkweather and his 14-year old girlfriend Caril Fugate. In the interests of dramatic license, of course, some changes have been made to the story and the characters, which is only to be expected, as this is a dramatization, not a documentary. For one, Martin Sheen actually does have a superficial resemblance to James Dean. The real-life Starkweather, based on pictures of him I've seen, looked like a malevolent undersized toad with a shock of red hair and thick glasses. The location of the murders has been changed from Nebraska to South Dakota or Colorado. Still, as grim and dark as the storyline is, there's a strange lyrical beauty that suffuses the film itself, a beauty that extends from the spare midwestern landscape to the eerie music used on the sountrack. Sheen's Kit Carruthers seems unemotional to the point of autism, until he explodes suddenly into murderous violence against real and imagined adversaries. In certain ways, this unpredictable, contradictory quality makes him seem more terrifying than the actual Starkweather himself. Based on what I've read, Charlie Starkweather killed anyone who crossed his path; it didn't matter if you were elderly, or someone he knew, or a child, or a total stranger. If you crossed his path, you died, no matter who you were. The tension was not over if you were going to die, but how. Not so with Sheen's character. There's an arbitrary quality to the people Sheen kills, and it creates an undeniable suspense. Will he kill the rich people whose home he invades? His friend from the garbage route? The gas station attendant? The law enforcement officials chasing him down? Spacek is equally outstanding in a very difficult role; at one moment childishly vulnerable, or coquettish in the way of an unsophisticated 1950's teen, or callous and emotionally flat to a degree that would seem extraordinarily unrealistic if the character wasn't modeled on a chillingly real-life prototype (the actual Fugate claimed she was Starkweather's unwilling hostage, a claim doubted by many; she was sentenced to life imprisonment while Starkweather was executed in the electric chair-- she was paroled in 1976 and retreated into anonymity, although she still continues to deny any guilt in the murders). Some of the dialogue may strike some as comical, until you consider how disconnected the characters really are from other human beings and their own emotions. At one point, Kit shoots a friend of his in the stomach, and tells girlfriend Holly, "I got him in the stomach." Holly blandly asks, "Was he upset?" The first time I saw the film with my parents, my mother, a no-nonsense woman from Jersey City, looked at me, rolled her eyes, and asked, "Now who would ask such a ridiculous question?" Better to ask, "Now who would commit such a pointless, horrible act?" Because, unfortunately, people like Starkweather and Fugate are not anomalies, or artistic inventions; their kind seems more and more pervasive with each year that passes, not to mention younger and even more savage. In its own way, "Badlands" was a disturbingly prescient, ahead-of-its-time film.

  (5 voted this helpful, 0 funny and 0 agree)
irishgit (151)
Creepy, well made film loosely based on the short, violent career of Charles Starkweather.

Martin Sheen is the personification of fun-loving, amoral evil.

  (1 voted this helpful, 0 funny and 1 agree)
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