The History Channel has so much success with its miniseries in recent years that it has almost single-handedly resurrected the format. Hatfields & McCoys and The Bible differ quite drastically in quality but they were both massive ratings hits. The History Channel (along with Lifetime and A&E) might have just aired its most ambitious miniseries yet in the form of Bonnie and Clyde. The simultaneous airing on three networks sure was an interesting idea. Unfortunately, the miniseries itself is nowhere near as interesting. Bonnie and Clyde is just way too repetitive. Well-casted leads are not enough to make four hours of prison visits and shootouts worthwhile.
Bonnie and Clyde follows Clyde Barrow (Emile Hirsch) and Bonnie Parker (Holliday Grainger)’s life of crime from their abrupt first meeting to their bullet-ridden end. The miniseries is directed by Bruce Beresford (Driving Miss Daisy) and is written by Joe Batteer and John Rice (writers of the Nicholas Cage war film, Windtalkers, among other things).
It is becoming quite clear that Arthur Penn’s Bonnie and Clyde was a stroke of genius and luck because this miniseries makes it clear that the story of Bonnie and Clyde really isn’t all that interesting. It’s really just a tale of repeated violence, and quite frankly the creative team behind this miniseries was the wrong choice to adapt it to a narrative format. Joe Batteer and John Rice’s screenplay is quite dull as the first-half of the miniseries feels like it is stuck in neutral as it covers the many hurdles that the duo faced to get into the national spotlight (much of which turns out to be factually inaccurate anyway). The second-half of the miniseries is just as bad as it’s just non-stop violence, most of which is poorly constructed. Speaking of which, Bruce Beresford feels like the wrong choice for this script to make matters even worse. His visual style is quite dull except for reoccurring hallucinations that make no sense from a narrative standpoint.
All of this is quite a shame when you consider the miniseries lucked out with its two main leads. It seems like Emile Hirsch has gone nowhere after his exceptional performance in Into the Wild, and while this performance won’t help out with that, he’s a charismatic lead that is also able to convey the unexpected vulnerable side of his character. Meanwhile, Holliday Grainger finds the perfect balance of sexiness and strong-mindedness to make Bonnie work. The rest of the cast is rather un-noteworthy though. William Hurt (as the officer tasked with hunting down Bonnie and Clyde), Holly Hunter (as Bonnie’s mother) and Sarah Hyland (as the wife of Clyde’s brother) are the big names of the cast. None of them will convince you that this wasn’t for anything other than the paycheck.
In terms of History’s recent miniseries, Bonnie and Clyde is easily the worst. It certainly isn’t a good program like Hatfields & McCoys was, and The Bible at least had a scope that you had to admire. With this miniseries there is nothing to admire.