It’s my hope that I’m not missing the boat on this one in not rating it higher. A lot of it was quite good, and it was never less than compelling. However, with the year-end awards crunch in full-motion, one occasionally slips through the cracks when looking ahead to my 2013 Top Ten tally. What I’m saying is—I may have to give this another go to be certain. I’m inundated this time of season with a bevy of theatrical releases, industry screeners and DVDs. So, my initial reaction to this beautifully shot(cinematography by Bradford Young)tone poem of a film monikered “Ain’t Them Bodies Saints” is a positive one, with some reservations concerning its over-familiarity. I’ve been down the Bonnie & Clyde-road many times before, including through the eyes of Terence Malick(1973’s “Badlands”), who so obviously inspired this venture. A theater experience may have helped with this release, and it did make a bit of a splash at Sundance at the beginning of the year.
I will tell you this—I’m becoming a big supporter of the delectable Rooney Mara. “The Social Network”, “Side Effects”, the American version of “The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo—she was impressive in all. Ms. Mara even makes her mark in Spike Jonze’s “Her” as Joaquin Phoenix’s estranged wife. I failed to mention her in my previous review, but her work was typically solid. And Casey Affleck may be the under appreciated Affleck, but don’t forget that he does have an Oscar nomination of his very own(Best Supporting Actor for 2007’s superb “The Assassination of Jesse James by the Coward Robert Ford”). And speaking of under appreciated, it’s astonishing that more people aren’t talking about the talented Ben Foster, so impressive in films like 2007’s “3:10 to Yuma” and 2009’s “The Messenger”. And a special shout-out to Keith “I’m Easy” Carradine too, almost 40 years removed from his iconic “Nashville” performance.
David Lowery wrote and directed this tale of lovestruck outlaws, Bob Muldoon(Mr. Affleck)and Ruth Guthrie(Ms. Mara). When they are nabbed after a crime spree, and a cop is shot and injured(Mr. Foster), Bob decides to take the fall. He goes to jail and Ruth is set free, even though it was her bullet that downed the officer. Also, Ruth is pregnant with Muldoon’s daughter, and Bob spends the next few years trying to escape incarceration to get to his family. When he finally succeeds, the authorities are on the lookout around his friends and loved ones. And the now-recovered policeman from that earlier shootout sets out to inform Ruth, with some other possible motives in mind too.
“Ain’t Them Bodies Saints”—it’s well-acted and solidly directed, the script is very good and it looks great. If I didn’t get the feeling that I’d seen it before, I’m certain that I would praise it even more. Regardless, it’s worth a look—it’s barely 90 minutes long, and you’ll even get to hear Mr. Carradine sing. Maybe I’ll even up the ante after watching it again. Grade: B
next review up: “Saving Mr. Banks”