Terrence Malick’s “Badlands” is a built-up masterpiece that calls for attention to each frame. It’s slowly paced and sauntering with feeling and mystery, as garbage-collector Kit, played by Martin Sheen, quits his day on the job Terrence’s camera is perched upon him. He finds as he walks home, kicking a can and then conclusively stomping it, a girl outside twirling a baton, played by freckle-faced Sissy Spacek. He sweet-talks her and the spree of cross-country murders begin, inspired by the Starkweather-Fugate killings of the 1950s.
Terrence Malick is an undeniable poet of the cinema, an auteur of nature. He follows the goings of these two young people with romantic shots, despite the two never making love or showing much affection other than just being highly devoted to each other. In a scene where Kit shoots a hillybilly living on a ranch in the desert, the man settles on a cot, breathing deeply and accepting his death, Holly comes in talking leisurely with him; he looks at her a bit odd, but answers her trivial questions anyways. Her lack of shock may be comforting. The expected theme of Badlands is male control; but Kit doesn’t sexually harm or force Holly into any of his circumstances. After it all happens, he just expects shes with him and she is. Her mind is too far gone now to sit back and think: she’s got to keep going.’
The ending of Badlands seems to be an attempt at meaning, but it really doesn’t pry. The police-men look at Kit like Capone, admire him maybe. But what does this say? We know America glamorizes violence, but is it any different for police-men? The photography that’s been done in Badlands is its greatest ultimate feat: Dust flying from treading tires, and wilderness shots of men clambering with shotguns, after Kit and Holly, the whole film is shot in crisp full color. Terrence Mallick develops and introduces his style with Badlands, an effective look into the lives of two criminals.