Overwrought & Undercooked Crime Thriller Is Unwatchable

May 8, 2023

Arthur Penn’s Bonnie and Clyde was a highly influential piece of cinema that ushered in a new era of violent and stylish storytelling that featured young people at the center. It was controversial and sexy, launched both title stars to superstardom, and has cemented itself in Hollywood history by birthing a new subgenre. Oliver Stone’s Natural Born Killers picked up the mantel and created an explosive film that pushed the boundaries of technical creativity in a highly stylized, satirical, and violent homage to Bonnie and Clyde. Now in 2023, Tom DeNucci hopes that his Johnny & Clyde can leave as big a mark as its cinematic parents, but can it?

Johnny & Clyde follows the titular killers, played by Avan Jogia and Skate Kitchen’s breakout star Ajani Russell, who have been rampaging across the country. Between killing and having sex in dinky motels on top of beds full of cash, the two have been building a reputation of never getting caught and are constantly making enemies. Enter Alana Heart, played by a blonde Megan Fox, the manager of the Four Horse Casino who has attracted rumors that she has satanic connections — likely because she has demon goons that she has on bondage gear. She becomes the latest target for Johnny and Clyde as they learn that the casino’s earnings are held in an unprotected second location. The duo has brought together their own Barrow Gang featuring new players who are just vile as they are. Alana finds out about the robbery and uses those satanic connections to protect her assets.

This film is ridiculous. On paper and on screen, Johnny & Clyde is absolutely bonkers. The film begins as a stylized crime thriller with zany characters and even more bombastic costume choices. However, it lacks depth, and is a hollow imitation of the far better Bonnie and Clyde and Natural Born Killers. For all the pushback against those films, they at least had a solid foundation that offered critical commentary on the state of youth culture and violence in society. Those films also avoided falling into the dangerous trap of being just style over substance. The style informed the film’s substance; Johnny & Clyde has no such depth.

Despite Jogia and Russell being charismatic and committed to their roles, there is a concerning lack of character development. Jogia has had an interesting career that has seen him push the goodie two-shoe image from his Nickelodeon days, even leading to his gritty directorial debut Door Mouse, which is far better than this. Russell is a welcome sight as she represents a new generation of ordinary, everyday people being discovered while they live their lives. Seeing her here made me want to drop Johnny & Clyde and rewatch Crystal Moselle’s Skate Kitchen and the TV series spin-off Betty. It is particularly troubling seeing Russell’s talents wasted here, as Clyde contributes nothing to the dynamic, often being a less appealing Harley Quinn-type to Avan Jogia’s Joker.

Megan Fox can barely be called a saving grace, as her character is perhaps the one element of interest here. She is a “villain” with a perspective, and her efforts to stop Johnny and Clyde are just as documented as Johnny and Clyde’s attempt to rob her. However, the script by DeNucci and Nick Principe is hardly worth crediting for any interest generated by this character. Fox is a magnetic performer; despite having little, she makes it work. But I wish she picked better movies, or turned it around like Nicolas Cage, who also went through a terrible movie era to stay afloat. Fox deserves better than this.

Johnny & Clyde is a chaotic, unamusing mess. There is enough to recognize its potential, but it’s utterly squandered by uneven pacing, inadequate character work, lack of thematic cohesiveness, and, sadly, mediocre directing. The film looks as cheap as it feels, although another saving grace is the costuming which does more for the characters than anything in the script. It’s sad to tear into a movie; there is usually something worth holding onto or advocating for. But Johnny & Clyde has little to recommend itself.

Johnny & Clyde is now playing in theaters and is available on demand. It is 100 minutes long and not yet rated.

Disclaimer: This story is auto-aggregated by a computer program and has not been created or edited by filmibee.
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