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Badlands (1973)

I finally understand Terence Malick. More precisely, I understand why someone might give the writer/director of an atrocious, meandering puff of fell-in-the-dirt cotton candy like Song to Song a lifetime pass. 1973’s Badlands is hungry, soulful, and gripping, the kind of auteruist debut that commands instant Top Five status for any film lover who sees it. Martin Sheen and Sissy Spacek tear up the west as young criminals inspired by Charles Starkweather and Caril Ann Fugate. He’s a James Dean-worshipping psychopath; she’s an aloof teenager secretly pulling his strings. Less flashy than predecessor Bonnie and Clyde, but just as spiritually unhinged as successors True Romance and Natural Born Killers (Tarantino doesn’t just rip off Asian gangster films!), Badlands is a note-perfect societal critique. Malick’s expansive landscapes are practically consumed by his claustrophobic narrative, resulting in a work of subcutaneous ills that resolve themselves in ways heartbreaking, ridiculous, and uniquely American.

Journey into the Badlands with Ian and's Pat "The Über Critic" McDonald on Kicking the Seat Podcast #223!

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