The ballad and backstory of Bonnie and Clyde
They did it for love. At least Clyde Barrow did. Bonnie Parker just wanted to be discovered. That's the takeaway from this expansive mini-series about America's most curious folk heroes.
Emile Hirsch (Savages) and British actress Holliday Grainger (The Borgias) play the Depression-era robbers from Texas, famously portrayed by Warren Beatty and Faye Dunaway in Arthur Penn's 1967 Bonnie and Clyde.
This version from Aussie director Bruce Beresford (A Good Man in Africa), being shown simultaneously on Lifetime, A&E, and History, paints a fuller picture of the couple, exploring their lives before their celebrated crime spree.
That means a graphic look at the brutality Barrow suffered during his stay at the Eastham Prison Farm, a hellhole from which the budding criminal gained release by desperately mutilating his foot.
Well, Beatty limped in the original film as well, but many other details in the B&C legend have been altered here.
Much is made of the psychic powers of Hirsch's Clyde. He has visions of the future, including the couple's awful demise in a hailstorm of bullets.
Grainger's Bonnie takes a more aggressive, often trigger-happy role in the partnership. "If we pull big guns on people," she reasons, "they're going to do what we tell them to." Hard to argue with that logic.
The mini gets off to a slow but flavorful start on Sunday night. Things pick up in Monday's conclusion, as our migratory desperados graduate to tommy guns.
That's also the night when Sarah Hyland (Haley on Modern Family) joins the fun as Clyde's unhinged sister-in-law, Blanche, the role that won Estelle Parsons an Oscar. Don't expect any awards in Hyland's future.
William Hurt, however, will certainly hold your attention for his expertly managed role as Frank Hamer, the very old-school lawman who hunted the couple down and set their deadly ambush in 1934. (Denver Pyle played Hamer in the original version.)
Also in the supporting cast are Holly Hunter, Lane Garrison, and Dale Dickey (Winter's Bone), whose face should get an Emmy for the way it conveys a hardscrabble life.
The mini-series, to its detriment, also wedges in Elizabeth Reaser as a newspaper reporter. This character manages to be both intrusive and superfluous, a hard trick even for a journalist.
Hirsch does a good job, particularly with the folksy and fetching voiceover. Grainger overvamps as his apple-cheeked accomplice.
If you can overlook Bonnie & Clyde's heavy-handed reliance on foreshadowing and the more obvious aspects of its myth-making agenda, it's a wild ride through a jalopy world.
Bonnie & Clyde
9 p.m. Sunday and Monday on Lifetime, History, and A&E.