A small-time thief steals a car and impulsively murders a motorcycle policeman. Wanted by the authorities, he reunites with a hip American journalism student and attempts to persuade her to run away with him to Italy.
The discovery of a severed human ear found in a field leads a young man on an investigation related to a beautiful, mysterious nightclub singer and a group of psychopathic criminals who have kidnapped her child.
It's the late 1950s. Mid-twenty-something Kit is a restless and unfocused young man with a James Dean vibe and swagger which he has heard mentioned about him more than once. Fifteen year old Holly has a somewhat cold relationship with her sign painter father, if only because she is the primary reminder of his wife, who died of pneumonia when Holly was a child. The two meet when Holly and her father move from Texas to the small town where Kit lives, Fort Dupree, South Dakota. They slowly fall in love, something about which she cannot tell her father because of their age difference and Kit coming from the wrong side of the tracks. When he tries to take Holly away with him, Kit, on an impulse, shoots her father dead. After letting the initial emotions of the situation settle down, Holly decides voluntarily to go with Kit, they trying to make it look like they committed suicide in a house fire. But they soon learn that their plan did not work, there being a bounty on their heads. As such,... Written by
Some movie posters for the film featured a long text preamble that read: "He was 25 years old - He combed his hair like James Dean - He was very fastidious - People who littered bothered him - She was 15 - She took music lessons and could twirl a baton - She wasn't very popular at school - For awhile they lived together in a tree house. In 1959, she watched while he killed a lot of people". See more »
In the airport scene at the end many of the troops are armed with M-14 and M-16 rifles (as indicated by the flash suppressors.) While these weapons would be contemporary with the filming, they are much later than the film's time frame (late 1950s). See more »
[voice over narration]
My Mother dies of pneumonia when I was just a kid. My Father kept their wedding cake in the freezer for ten whole years. After the funeral he gave it to the yard man. He tried to act cheerful but he could never be consoled by the little stranger he found in his house. Then one day hoping to begin a new life away from the scene of all these memories he moved us from Texas to Port Dupree, South Dakota.
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"Saw her standing on her front porch, just a-twirling her baton..."
The serial killer genre is the most overdone in modern cinema, but director Terrence Mallick took a real life story to make his powerful debut, 'Badlands'. He even toned it down, his interest being not in presenting a picture of pure (and wholly artificial) evil but rather in portraying a wholly human story. Murder is depicted here in all its banality - people shot (off-screen) through locked doors, by a young man acting for wholly normal motives but without the customary restraints on behaviour that we term morals. The result is a haunting, though occasionally pretentious, study of individuals drifting beyond the bounds of civilisation, their physical location (America's still-wild west) symbolically matching their mental isolation. Sissy Spacek is particularly good as the ordinary girl just along for the ride. A fine film, 'Badlands' is also genuinely disturbing, in a way that Hannibal Lector could only dream of.
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