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Infamous (A Movie Review)

Updated: Oct 10, 2021


Starring Bella Thorne, Jake Manley, Amber Riley, Marisa Coughlan, Billy Blair, Michael Sirow, Jennifer Rader, Madison Bready, Maggie McClure, Hayley Burgess, Robert Peters, Nicholas Simon, Paul T. Taylor, Delores Wheeler, Chris Oz McIntosh, Thomas Rivas, Joey Oglesby, Kyle Jacob Henry, Aaliyah Muhammad, Rose Lane Sanfilippo, Emily Bertels and Lisandro Boccacci.

Screenplay by Joshua Caldwell.

Directed by Joshua Caldwell.

Distributed by Vertical Entertainment. 100 minutes. Not Rated.

Infamous is trying hard to be a new-millennial Bonnie and Clyde, but it comes off more like a low-budget Natural Born Killers for the social media generation. However, it doesn’t quite seem to get the fact that Natural Born Killers – as horrific as it was – was supposed to be something of a comedy. A very, very dark comedy, but a comedy.

Infamous attempts to match the dark social satire of the film, but that kind of subtlety (and there is not much in Natural Born Killers which could be called subtle) is out of the new film’s reach.

It’s not just that the lead characters are horribly unlikable. (That could also be said about NBK.) It’s not that the violence is ridiculous and overwrought. (Again, same with Killers.) It is also trying to make a point, some kind of point, about internet fixation and chasing fame through carnage, just like the earlier film, but honestly there are very few people here that you care if they live or die, most importantly the (anti-)heroes, who you would just as soon see mowed down in a rain of bullets.

Infamous is definitely provocative, but it’s provocative in a cheesy, shallow, Logan Paul kind of way – heavy on shock value but with little of substance to say. It’s about serial killers – and pretty dumb ones at that – as social media influencers, trying to turn blood baths into Instagram or TikTok entertainment.

As much as I hated Natural Born Killers, at least it made you think (and made you feel like you’d been punched in the gut). It was outrageous, but it had a point, it had a point of view, and as horrific as it was, it did have some sharp commentary on American society’s fixation with violence and mayhem.

Things have just gotten worse in the internet age, so undoubtedly this is a subject which could be explored on film. Instead it’s a road trip about a violent-but-basically-smart guy stuck with the Instagram girlfriend from Hell. She finds violence a turn on and is more interested in likes than potentially going to jail. In fact, her obsessive need to chronicle their crime spree on social media more than once leads to them almost getting caught.

Bella Thorne may be the ideal person to play such a shallow internet-obsessed character (after all, much of her career in recent years has been a form of clickbait), but she is saddled with a frankly obnoxious character. The audience eventually can’t help but think that her boyfriend should leave her far behind; she may be hot, but she is also a hot mess and nothing but trouble.

Jake Manley’s character is somewhat easier to get a handle on. First of all, he does not seem to enjoy the violence he is submerged in. He also seems as bewildered by his girlfriend’s obsession with likes and shares and internet fame as the audience.

Then out of the blue about halfway through the film, Glee’s Amber Riley shows up as perhaps one of the stupidest and most inexplicable characters in recent film history.

All this stuff could make for an intriguing film – maybe – in more capable hands. However, Joshua Caldwell’s script is not nearly as incisive as he thinks it is. Most of the clever and important points that are made (and there are some) are overwhelmed by a lust for mayhem and violence. And, eventually, the audience can’t help but thinking that this newfangled Bonnie and Clyde deserve anything horrible that happens to them.

Jay S. Jacobs

Copyright ©2020 All rights reserved. Posted: June 12, 2020.

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