Necessary Violence

†††††††† Bonnie and Clyde, directed by Arthur Penn, received many negative reviews from critics upon its release in 1967. The movie was considered excessively violent, especially the final scene. I would argue, however, that the movie could end no other way.

†††††††† The violence level in the movie works on a slow incline. Several minutes into the film, after our title characters are introduced, Clyde Barrow (Warren Beatty) pulls out his gun to show Bonnie Parker (Faye Dunaway). She taunts him into robbing a store across the street, but no shots are fired or punches thrown. The next robbery ends in failure, as the bank has no money to steal. Clyde shoots out the bankís window in frustration. The violence escalates at a grocery store when a store worker attacks Clyde with a meat cleaver. Clyde defends himself by beating the man with his gun, seeming unwilling to actually shoot the man. Clyde is visibly upset later and simply cannot understand why the man attacked him at all.

†††††††† The first death in the movie occurs after Moss (Michael J. Pollard) joins the group. He stupidly parks the car during the robbery, causing confusion and a near catastrophe. A man jumps on the car as it is pulling away, and Clyde shoots him in the eye. Again, Clyde is very shaken up about this. The addition soon after of Buck (Gene Hackman) and Blanch (Estelle Parsons) raise the violence level even further. Several cops are killed in a shoot out as the Barrow gang make their escape. The violence has snowballed at this point, and more and more shots are fired in the following robberies and near-misses with the police. One particularly nasty squabble ends with a dead Buck, Blanch in the hospital, and Clyde and Bonnie both injured. The situation is completely out of control by this time, and our title characters both seem to know it. Several quiet scenes at Mossís house build up the tension after the violent scenes before it. In the final scene, Bonnie and Clyde drive calmly down the road, secure in the fact that they had just outsmarted the police again. As they are tricked into stopping on the road, however, a barrage of bullets fires into them. This outrageous scene serves three purposes: it ends the story for Bonnie and Clyde, gives the audience a final release from the tension, and acts as a stopping point to the escalation of violence. A single shot in each person would have killed them, of course; but it would not have served the other two purposes. The build-up throughout the movie needs this final over-the-top massacre to finish it off.

Kortney Bullock

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