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Tag Archive: Bonnie and Clyde


Review by C.J. Bunce

Eighty-five years ago today, April 1, 1934, two Texas highway patrolmen, 26-year-old Edward Wheeler and 22-year-old Holloway Murphy were on motorcycle patrol, checking on a car they thought may need assistance.  Instead, they were gunned down by Clyde Barrow and Bonnie Parker.  It was Easter Sunday.  The two notorious criminals had repeatedly evaded the law, in part because they were sheltered in an era where the stupidity of the masses outweighed sense and a large segment of the populace viewed them as some kind of folk heroes.  Despite being captured by two former Texas Rangers, Frank Hamer and Maney Gault, that legendary hero status stuck somehow, thanks in part to Hollywood, and specifically the rather popular and also critically acclaimed movie Bonnie and Clyde starring Warren Beatty and Faye Dunaway.  That film portrayed a rollicking, at times humorous, ride, which in fact, shared little of substance about the criminals and their victims.  Hollywood is now doing an about-face with a new, edgy, thoughtful drama, which includes the murders of Wheeler and Murphy and others, in director John Lee Hancock‘s The Highwaymen, now on Netflix.

Hancock, who wrote screenplays for the Kevin Costner/Clint Eastwood film A Perfect World, the screenplay for Eastwood’s Midnight in the Garden of Good and Evil, and wrote and directed the 2004 version of The Alamo, offers up a reserved, measured tale not of the infamous criminals this time, but the two aging men, Hamer and Gault, who knew how to track and kill criminals.  That’s thanks to a script by John Fusco, who has experience writing historical accounts for the screen, as found in his Billy the Kid story Young Guns, the Babe Ruth biopic Babe, the 1890s horse rider tale Hidalgo, and his heavily researched series Marco Polo.  Despite the sometimes dry “historical drama” label, The Highwaymen is by no means devoid of compelling storytelling.  Plus, headlined by Kevin Costner, playing the elder more experienced former Ranger Frank Hamer, and Woody Harrelson as the slightly less experienced B.M. “Maney” Gault, the film showcases the chemistry between the duo.  In one key dramatic sequence the two lawmen come upon a temporary residence for the criminals, looking for clues among the closeted clothing in what could be the bedroom of any small town couple of the day.  But Harrelson may get the most satisfying scene, as he responds to being cornered by a group of Barrow supporters while in a public restroom.

The film is fueled by a compelling musical score by Thomas Newman (Spectre, Skyfall, Road to Perdition, The Shawshank Redemption, Fried Green Tomatoes, The Man With One Red Shoe), the kind of a soundtrack that will no doubt stand well as its own creative work.  His score sets the tempo of the picture while not overtaking it, as happened with Ennio Morricone’s Oscar-nominated score for Costner’s The Untouchables, a similar era film that will no doubt be compared to The HighwaymenNewman’s music is entirely different, a balance of post-Civil War, Western, and Depression-era motifs with guitar that echoes the former Rangers’ cowboy, horse-riding past.  Cinematographer John Schwartzman delivers the kind of bleak, spacious, 1930s America perhaps last scene in László Kovács’ film work on Peter Bogdanovich’s depression-era film Paper Moon.

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We haven’t seen Kevin Costner as an Oscar contender for thirty years, but the latest Netflix release has all the right elements for that kind of potential with Costner back with his Gary Cooper-esque style, and that Oscar possibility may line up for Woody Harrelson, too.  The first trailer for The Highwaymen has arrived and if you’re as much of a fan of The Untouchables as we are, this new historical drama about bringing the crime duo of Bonnie Parker and Clyde Barrow to justice in 1934 may be just for you.  And with theatrical releases slated for two weeks in advance of its Netflix premiere, it may also be the Netflix movie that gets you to buy tickets and see it on the big screen.

Director John Lee Hancock (The Founder, The Rookie, Saving Mr. Banks, The Blind Side, Midnight in the Garden of Good and Evil, Snow White and the Huntsman, A Perfect World) is putting aside the comedy of the famous 1967 version–Bonnie and Clyde with Faye Dunaway and Warren Beatty, which garnered ten Oscar nominations–opting for a gritty, realistic take on the brutal murderers and their bloody end.  Originally developed years ago by screenplay writer John Fusco (Crossroads, Young Guns, Marco Polo) to star Robert Redford and Paul Newman, the movie tracks Costner as Frank Hamer and Harrelson as Maney Gault, both real-life ex-Texas Rangers commissioned as special investigators by banks to finally capture the infamous robbers and murderers.  It’s hard not to see Costner’s Eliot Ness from The Untouchables, but this time taking on older cop Sean Connery’s role in the story, or even the Clint Eastwood role instead of the convict part he played in Hancock’s 1993 hot pursuit movie A Perfect World.

The supporting cast could hardly look better, with Kathy Bates (Misery, Titanic) as Governor Ma Ferguson, and Hancock’s The Founder co-star John Carroll Lynch as Lee Simmons, along with Hancock’s The Blind Side co-star Kim Dickens.  It also features Thomas Mann (Hansel & Gretel: Witch Hunters, Kong: Skull Island), and perennial TV and film favorites W. Earl Brown (The X-Files, Deadwood, True Detective) and William Sadler (Wonderfalls, Deep Space Nine).

Here is the trailer for The Highwaymen:

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Review by C.J. Bunce

Both were pulled from Special Forces units.  Dakota Prentiss is an ex-Ranger.  She’s tough, rough, crude, and been through it all.  Then new worker Matt Salem is brought onto her security team.  He’s ex-Navy SEAL and she can’t help falling for him, something she’s never quite had time for with her lifetime committed to always fulfilling the mission, and now she’s bound herself for life to a private corporation where you keep secrets or you die.  In Nat Cassidy’s novelization of Mac Rogers’ dramatic podcast series, Steal the Stars, we get a first person account of bad choices that only get worse from Dakota aka “Dak” in a science fiction noir style that takes place on an Earth where corporations have gained far too much power and the CEO of one giant company has the power over life and death.

And it’s also a heist story.  Dak determines the only way out of the mess she has gotten into by violating company fraternization policy with Matt is to steal the very thing her team is guarding–a UFO that crashed a decade ago and the alien inside that may or may not be dead–and sell these secrets to China.  Dak is every bit the tough and in-charge leader like Hannah-John Kamen’s Dutch in the Syfy series Killjoys, including her ability for falling for the next guy who joins her team.  The company follows rigorous protocols in their own variation on Warehouse 13 to maintain the safety of the UFO and its harp-shaped power drive, which they soon learn has power so great whoever controls it could control everything.  The alien inside, called Moss for its slowly diminishing moss-like covering, simply stares off into nothing as if dead.  But why does he still seem to have body heat?

Another entry from The X-Files?  Sure.  It’s also heavily influenced by other alien arrival stories, especially the most recent Oscar-winning film about first contact, 2016’s Arrival, with its focus on the process and set-up for quarantining such a discovery.  Also a mash-up of They Live and Bonnie and Clyde and even Philip K. Dick’s short story “Paycheck,” Steal the Stars pulls bits and pieces of sci-fi from all angles to create a compelling read that will keep you onboard for all of its 416 pages.

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By C.J. Bunce

As recently as August 2011, 40 years after a man hijacked a flight from Portland to Seattle, the legendary D.B. Cooper was the subject of a new lead in the FBI’s investigation of America’s only unsolved hijacking.  An Oklahoma woman came forward suggesting that when she was eight years old her uncle revealed amassing the stolen fortune in the days after Cooper took $200,000 and a parachute and vanished over the Pacific Northwest on the November 24, 1971.  In 1980 $6,000 of the bills washed ashore, found by a kid playing at a beach.

So did D.B. Cooper survive?

Writer/artist Brian Churilla suggests in his new mini-series from Oni Press that maybe there was something more sinister going on in the fall of 1971, and that D.B. Cooper was a trained assassin turned rogue agent of the CIA.  Why the skyjacking?  Cooper went on the run and the publicity was an effort to enlist the public to flush out and track down Cooper.

Far-fetched?

You bet!  But that’s the stuff of good comic book action.  In issue #1 of The Secret History of D.B. Cooper, Churilla goes off in even more bizarre directions, showing that Cooper also was a bit of a dream traveler like Dennis Quaid’s character in the 1984 cult sci-fi classic Dreamscape.  And just like in Dreamscape, the government enlisted Cooper to murder targets in their sleep, stumbling through a frenzied dream world in the process.

Unlike Dreamscape, Churilla takes off in a surreal direction like something you might find in the pages of Animal Man, where reality is blurred with otherworldly elements, with Cooper using the resources of a one-armed teddy bear sidekick.  Yes, that’s right, a one-eared teddy bear.  With a sword even.

The above description might have the more mainstream audiences running for cover, but for those that like a good alternate history mixed with X-Files overtones, this series may be up your alley.  A good introductory story, issue #1 suggests this independent publisher mini-series could get a foothold with readers of the big comic publishing houses.  And it’s plain fun.

First, Animal Man is big right now, and the over the top, supernatural imagery of The Secret History should attract readers of that popular DC Comics series.

Second, Churilla picked a great hook using D.B. Cooper as his hero.  In more than 40 years he is still thought of not like every other airplane hijacker of all time, but is constantly referred to as “an American folk hero,” achieving something of a mythic status like Jesse James and Bonnie and Clyde.  The FBI has investigated over 1,000 suspects over the years, documented several deathbed confessions, a movie, The Pursuit of D.B. Cooper starring Treat Williams, and several non-fiction books.  Yet, Cooper has hardly been used as the subject of a good, creative retelling.

Third, a buddy cop story where one buddy is a teddy bear.  ‘Nuff said.

Fourth, like the popular NBC TV series Grimm, The Secret History takes place in the great Pacific Northwest, home of the X-Files and Twin Peaks, prime real estate for a creepy and cool supernatural detective story.

Finally, Churilla’s art and colors has a very Mike Mignola quality and the writing also reads like a Hellboy story from Mignola.

One alternate cover version is available, drawn by Batwoman writer/artist J.H. Williams III.