'Bonnie & Clyde' review: Muddled characters

Emile Hirsch, left, and Holliday Grainger play the Emile Hirsch, left, and Holliday Grainger play the notorious couple on the two-part miniseries, "Bonnie and Clyde" airing Dec. 8 and 9 simultaneously on A&E, Lifetime and the History Channel. Photo Credit: MCT

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REVIEW

THE MINISERIES "Bonnie & Clyde"

WHEN | WHERE Part one airs Sunday at 9 p.m. Part two airs Monday at 9 p.m. Both parts on A&E, History and Lifetime.

WHAT IT'S ABOUT Three major cable channels will simulcast this miniseries about Bonnie Parker (Holliday Grainger) and Clyde Barrow (Emile Hirsch), and the assorted others who enabled them -- Bonnie's mother, Emma (Holly Hunter), Clyde's brother Buck (Lane Garrison) -- and the lawman who finally gunned them down, Frank Hamer (William Hurt). Sunday's Part One covers the early years and courtship. The firepower -- "tommy guns," and other assorted pieces of hardware -- get a workout Monday, when the robbing spree really begins. Meanwhile, ambitious newspaper reporter, P.J. Lane (Elizabeth Reaser) charts their progress in florid, romanticized accounts. In tone and style, this bears little to no resemblance to the classic 1967 Warren Beatty/Faye Dunaway big-screen film of the same name, which mixed elements of comedy alongside searing scenes of violence.

MY SAY This almost-all-star-cast-with-no-vintage-car-spared production mounted by Oscar showrunners Neil Meron and Craig Zadan -- and directed by Oscar-nominee Bruce Beresford -- doesn't just whisper the promise of "event" TV but fairly screams it. That three-network simulcast -- unprecedented -- pretty much amplifies the effect.

Then "Bonnie & Clyde" -- like one of those Model A beauties that they heist every other scene -- finally chugs into view. The roar recedes back to a whisper: "B & C" really is just another biopic with superior production values, a few good performances and a pair of protagonists who deserve no sympathy, and receive none here.

Hirsch's Clyde actually offers a glimpse of what could have really turned "dutiful" here into "compelling" when he says, "from my experience, trying to figure out why people do the things they do defies all logic . . . "

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Figure that one out as it relates to Barrow and Parker and Beresford has an interesting film. Fail to and you just end up with a lot of bodies and bullets.

Who was this duo? Depression-era vigilante yuppies? Empty-headed sociopaths? Or -- like Kimye -- a self-absorbed celebrity couple who feasted on their own notoriety? In this miniseries, they're a bit of all three, which doesn't make them particularly interesting as much as muddled.

That leaves lesser characters to pick up the slack, and they do: Hunter, as a preening stage mother, excellent in her all-too-brief moments; Hurt, as the square-jawed Gary Cooper-type; and especially Reaser's vampiric P.J. Lane, who feeds Parker's empty head and bottomless vanity with idiotic stories about their glorious exploits. That's the most intriguing story over three hours. Too bad it's a side one.

@Newsday

BOTTOM LINE Bonnie and clod.

GRADE B-

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