Extremely Wicked, Shockingly Evil and Vile
Starring Zac Efron, Lily Collins, Grace Victoria Cox, Haley Joel Osment, John Malkovich
While documentary turned feature film director Joe Berlinger’s latest Ted Bundy film doesn’t have much new to say about the notorious serial killer, it does take the stance that all women were stupid in the 1970’s. Efron, has built a career around toned abs and killer smiles, and on the one hand the beefy actor who shows his bum twice during the film, is perfect for the role. Arguing however this is some great performance is without merit. First, there isn’t much else to brag on thus far in 2019, so maybe we are just desperate for any form of revelation. Secondly, Efron certainly hasn’t set the bar very high with his previous roles Baywatch and Neighbors 2: Sorority Rising. The poorly titled film has a difficult tone that switches between two characters point of view, stretching this story beyond it’s capabilities.
Single mom in a new city, it was in 1969, after relocating to Seattle that Liz Kendall (Collins) met Ted Bundy (Efron). After staring all night, he makes his move, they dance, and she takes the good looking stranger home within hours of meeting him. Waking the next morning to a beautiful man cooking breakfast for her and her daughter. Pursing a law degree, Bundy made his way between Seattle and Utah during the early 1970’s where he made a few pit-stops along the way. He was first arrested in 1975, claiming a case of mistaken identity, while Liz forces himself to believe him. They are already engaged at this point. Bundy’s charm wasn’t just in his looks, but his ability to convince people of anything.
The screenplay isn’t without it’s ironies and fleeting prolific moments.
Without explicitly saying so, the film does offer a handful of scenes that show Bundy could never have committed any of the crimes without his looks. Within minutes of walking into a library, he has smiled, winked, and charmed every girl in his vicinity. This also works against the film, from the many women interviewed in the court room who are there to support this dreamy guy on trial, two he two girl friends featured, and every female he comes in contact with. In this script, all girls are just that easy when it comes to a good looking man. Extremely Wicked doesn’t focus on the violence, it’s less a portrait of a serial killer than it is a manipulator and someone who captivated the world with his outrageous behavior on television. It takes to the end of the film, the murder trial, to introduce Malkovich as the eventual judge who would preside over Bundy’s death sentence. And, “Bless his heart,” if he isn’t the movie’s highlight.
The screenplay isn’t without it’s ironies and fleeting prolific moments. The highlighted evidence that really bit Bundy in the behind was bite marks on one victims buttocks matching his own unique set of teeth. Collins (Love Rosie) performance and the character of Liz showcases her as a manipulated drunk, who in the final moments before Bundy’s execution, pulls the truth from him. “Free me,” she insists. It’s the psychology of the story that Extremely Wicked doesn’t pay enough attention to. The duel points of view divide the screen time needed to create a solid character from either Bundy or Liz. Only in the final moments does the film invite the audience to hate this character they have worked so hard to sell as a vile human.
Misguided narratively, with interesting performances, Extremely Wicked never finds sure footing or revelatory ground