The two-part A&E (and History Channel and Lifetime) mini-series "Bonnie and Clyde," which is being released on DVD and Blu-ray on January 28, 2014, is a nice reminder of the potential that A&E possesses. This three-hour docudrama of the lives of two of the depression-era's most famous criminals teaches the audience everything that he or she wanted to know about this dynamic duo but did not know enough to ask.
The passage of roughly 25 years (and 1,000s of films and television programs) since last seeing the uber-classic 1967 film starring Warren Beatty and Faye Dunaway prevents properly comparing this entertaining mini-series with that movie. However, a vague recollection is that the newer production is more comprehensive regarding the lives of Mr. Barrow and Miss Parker and devotes more screen-time to secondary players in their story.
This same fuzzy memory has images of Dunaway striking the same pose of holding a gun while lifting a shapely leg on the front bumper of a classic car as newer portrayor Holliday Grainger. The similarities end there in that Grainger, who provides a performance that is consistent with this type of production, does not do nearly as well as a clearly recalled job by Dunaway (who received an Oscar nomination for the role). Dunaway simply did much better conveying the era and Parker's toughness.
Further, Barrow portrayor Emile Hirsch does just as well as Grainger but lacks the intensity of Warren Beatty, who received an Oscar nomination for his portrayal of Barrow, in the role.
The following trailer, courtesy of YouTube, provides an excellent sense of these performances and the overall production.
This four-hour event opens with a graphic scene that few who have watched the 1967 film will ever forget; the story that conveys how Clyde got to that point begins soon after his birth and spends roughly 15 minutes on his childhood before rapidly speeding ahead to roughly his 18th year.
Scenes from Clyde's later-teens include his first seemingly pre-destined meeting with Bonnie; it was not murder but very well might have been.
The next portion of the first-half of "Bonnie" shows our leads largely conducting separate lives and ends with them fully beginning their crime spree. The next half depicts said spree, the resulting fame, and the efforts to bring them to justice.
One important player who receives moderate screen-time is Texas female reporter P.J. Lane; many of her scenes relate to convincing her chauvanist bosses that a woman can be just as tough and as interesting of a gangster as her male counterpart.
The audience also gets to observe much of the planning that legendary former Texas Ranger Frank Hamer, played by William Hurt, devotes to his manhunt of Barrow and Parker. These scenes do a great job conveying both the frustration and stakes associated with that quest.
On a general level, the mini-series is very well produced. The terrific cinematography of the beautiful outdoor rural scenes that comprise most of this noir film looks uber-awesome in Blu-ray. Further, the series is exceptionally well-edited and flows perfectly as an uninterrupted three-hour presentation that can feel a little like a marathon but never gets boring. Knowing how the story ends does not diminish seeing the events that lead to that point.
Additionally, the lurid scenes are a perfect match for the tone of the film and are never sensationalistic. The blood and gore galore are very apt and not overdone; the few sex scenes (including a brutal prison rape) are easily PG-13 and are just as apt as the ones in which blood freely flows.
The extras on both the DVD and Blu-ray releases include features on the real-life Bonnie and Clyde and the actors' preparations for their roles; "A Legendary Story" revisited is a Blu-ray exclusive.
The final sentence regarding "Bonnie" is that it shows that the TV mini-series is only comatose; hopes remain high that the positive response to this one and similar productions of the past few years will restore the genre to the strength that it enjoyed in the era of "The Thorn Birds" and "Rich Man, Poor Man."
Anyone with questions about "Bonnie" is welcome to email me; you can also connect on Twitter via @tvdvdguy.