“Bonnie & Clyde” begins with overkill, as the bank-robbing folk heroes drive into an ambush where legendary Texas ranger Frank Hamer (William Hurt) is hot for a final kill to seal his career, and ends the same way. In between, the mini-series, which was sprawled like a dead body across sister networks, forgets that it’s basically a four-hour movie with an already well-known ending.
But the miniseries looks like a film that’s hellbent on building to an ultimate climax, instead of documenting the rip-roaring antics that made Bonnie Parker (Holliday Grainger) and Clyde Barrow (Emile Hirsch) infamous from the Depression era. This story gives us an empty four hours and the lead actors don’t help: Hirsch is boring, when he’s supposed to be the charismatic ring leader. Grainger is a sexy redhead, but makes it impossible for us to get swept up in her lore as it seems everybody else is, including police officers, when she comes off like such a fragile person.
A synopsis promises us that “Bonnie & Clyde” tells the story of “one of the most infamous bank-robbing sprees in history,” but what makes it infamous? What is so special about what Bonnie and Clyde did? What made them “folk heroes,” as they are once described in the second episode? The creators of this miniseries don’t let us in. The robberies we see look disappointing and weak. The pair look like amateurs — and maybe they were — but there isn’t a spark there.
The filmmakers used actual photographs of the Depression era as a time capsule device, in some desperate attempt to show us what was at stake or the world Bonnie and Clyde were living in. Aside from these intermittent slideshows, time doesn’t play a big role in the film, which doesn’t totally make sense because of how others lived in the 1930s.
We’re told, at the end of the film, that 40,000 people viewed Clyde Barrow’s body in state, while 50,000 viewed Bonnie’s. Why does this matter, except to tell us something we already picked up during the two episodes: Bonnie Parker was much more popular. Of course she was. Everybody wanted a piece of her, including Texas reporter P.J. Lane (Elizabeth Reaser), who was as fascinated with the robbers as anybody; in fact, Lane gave Parker, a small-town aspiring actress, her limelight.
“Bonnie & Clyde” should’ve been an exciting adventure about two magnetically in love individuals who get off robbing banks and causing a stir. Instead, it looks like two people, with messy motives, who manage to put up with one another through the last lie in which Clyde is too cowardly to tell Bonnie he’s driving them to their execution. And the series ends with Clyde’s narration, instead of Bonnie’s? Why.