Monday Movie: Badlands, by Sarah Brinks
Every Monday, we’ll discuss a movie–it could be a classic, an unfairly maligned personal favorite or whatever the hell we feel like–and we’ll tell you where to find it online.
Terrence Malick’s films are usually hit or miss with me and Badlands, his first feature length film, was a miss. One thing that I struggle with in film is when characters don’t seem to care about anything. Badlands is a great example of characters like this. Sissy Spacek watches her father get gunned down in front of her and she has less of a reaction then when her dad shot her dog earlier in the film. Martin Sheen’s Kit, who does the shooting, seems to barely care. Even the people that Kit shoots barely seen inconvenienced by it. He shoots his old garbage route buddy Cato, who just lies down in bed and checks himself out in the mirror while bleeding to death. If the characters don’t even care about their own deaths, how is the audience supposed to get invested?
I understand that Malick is trying not to judge the actions of his characters but I think he could have found a way to achieve that while still making a more interesting film. Spacek basically follows Kit around and never does the killing herself, though she is certainly complicit. But you understand why she would follow Kit. He is handsome and capable and he has strong opinions. He is also charming when he wants to be. I liked at the end how all the cops and men at the airplane hangar are fascinated by him and want all the things in his pockets.
I didn’t completely dislike the film. I was mostly just bored by it, which is often my criticism of Malick’s films. They are often meditative and self-reflective, which works for me in a film like The New World, but left me cold in films like Badlands and The Tree of Life.
Badlands is available on Filmstruck.