wed 12/08/2020

Infamous review - Bonnie and Clyde for the digital age fails to deliver | reviews, news & interviews

Infamous review - Bonnie and Clyde for the digital age fails to deliver

Infamous review - Bonnie and Clyde for the digital age fails to deliver

A violent exploration of the perils of social media

Former Disney star turned enfant terrible Bella Thorne stars as Arielle

Like a sub-par Natural Born Killers for Gen Z, director-screenwriter Joshua Caldwell’s latest film, featuring Disney-child-star-turned-porn-director Bella Thorne, tackles the perils of social media like a parent trying to navigate TikTok. 

Arielle (Thorne) is a provocative Florida teen whose sole desire is to become famous any way she can. After a video of Arielle beating up a girl in a night club goes viral, she sees her road to stardom lies in making videos of violent acts to boost her online profile. 

Having dragged reluctant ex-con Dean (Jake Manley) along for the ride, the duo hit the road, crossing state lines as they knock off drugstores and share the videos online, earning them a massive following. It’s Bonnie and Clyde (and they describe themselves as such), only theyve ditched the fedoras and pencil skirts in favour of iPhones, neon bikinis, and Hawaiian shirts. Bella Thorne as Arielle in InfamousOn the face of it, Infamous should fit neatly next to Harmony KorineSpring Breakers and Sofia CoppolaThe Bling Ring, especially with its candy-coloured aesthetic. However, Korine and Coppola captured the anguish of a disenfranchised generation in a sympathetic and timely way. Caldwell borrows the aesthetic but leaves the insight behind. 

Much of what Caldwell tackles was beaten to the punch by the remarkable Queen and Slim, meaning weve not only seen it before, weve seen it done much betterBoth deal with timely themes, but the approach couldnt be more different. Queen and Slim managed to wrangle US racial tensions together with a classic road movie trope wrapped in a gripping crime drama, as well as exploring social media. Infamous meanwhile is left floundering by comparison, full of id-driven characters driven to destruction by their own narcissism, leaving little room for the audience to feel any sympathy for their plight. 

Blunt social commentary is casually tossed into the mix, including Florida’s gun laws and the pointless fantasy of online life. Luckily, Thorne rescues the film from being a complete mess. She gives a performance that captures Arielle’s unhinged persona, lending more substance to the cigarette-paper thin screenplay than it deserves. But even Thorne cant convince of us of some of the groan-inducing character motivations, like being angry that her mom named her after The Little Mermaid. 

The action sequences do have some good pacing, and the visceral violence captures the consequences of Arielles idiotic actions. Yet, the final bank heist sequence, which also opens the film, has to be one of the dullest committed to screen, only made worse when a character announces they are in a Mexican stand-off as though we cant already see whats happening on screen. 

Weve seen it before, weve seen it done better, and even with Thornes enthusiastic performance, Infamous remains as relevant to Gen Z as MySpace. 

@JosephDAWalsh

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