‘This here’s Miss Bonnie Parker. I’m Clyde Barrow. We rob banks...’
Despite being murderers, thieves and miscreants, Bonnie Parker and Clyde Barrow are two of America’s most important cultural figures. They do love an outlaw over there though it has to be said (shout out to Billy the Kid). I expected this 1967 biopic from director Arthur Penn to be all car chases and shootouts, and while it does have a bit of that, it’s more notable for a pair of utterly enchanting performances from Warren Beatty and Faye Dunaway in the leading roles. There’s no wonder that Bonnie and Clyde’s legend has lived on for so long…
Bonnie (Dunaway) is a small town girl with big dreams who is whisked off her little country feet by ex-con Clyde (Beatty). The two go on a murderous rampage across America along with Clyde’s brother Buck (Gene Hackman) and uncomplicated getaway driver C.W. Moss (Michael J. Pollard).
What a cast! Dunaway pouts and smoulders from her very first second onscreen, holding every man who shows up alongside her in a kind of excitable contempt. Beatty matches her every step of the way with a grizzled, hardboiled take on the American outlaw, and together they are quite simply a joy to behold. The two Genes are also great (Gene Wilder pops up in the third act to add a bit of levity to the proceedings) and Pollard also does a top job in capturing the devious vulnerability that drives Moss to stick around in the face of near constant ridicule.
Despite being almost 55 years old, Bonnie and Clyde still feels as fresh as a crisp $20 bill, a simile that the two criminals themselves would no doubt have enjoyed, and Penn’s film has earned its reputation as a mammoth of American cinema. Essential viewing.