Review: Extremely Wicked, Shockingly Evil and Vile17th May 2019
If the intention of director Joe Berlinger had been to convince its audience that Ted Bundy was at the very most, innocent, then it has done an ominously strange job of doing so. Even a bona fide fact-checker could’ve been fooled by the strange pacing and uniquely bland performance of Zac Efron’s Ted Bundy.
To suggest Extremely Wicked, Shockingly Evil and Vile is interesting though would be misrepresentation: to suggest it is boring, dull and a bit dumb, however, would be fairly accurate.
Efron’s performance garnered the wrong type of publicity, with many saying he wasn’t well suited to the role. Appearance-wise, he’s pretty much nailed the psychopath that was Bundy. But as a performer, well, his former filmography speaks for itself. He’s not exactly leading man material, as he proved with films like 17 Again and Dirty Grandpa, but this dip into ‘serious’ acting presumably wasn’t the start he had been expecting.
Biopics have a way of appealing to existing fans and soft-hearted film critics alike: both guarantee the film some attention and a relatively warm reception. The formula, though, is becoming all too common as of late; taking interesting, real life stories and trying to condense them into a mere hour and forty minutes just doesn’t work as well as it used to.
Especially when you’ve got such an interesting story here.
It’s not just the fault of Efron, of course not; the bland direction of Berlinger summarises most of the film’s problems. A shot for shot remake of footage already available on the internet may constitute accuracy, but it destroys interest. Sure, it’s interesting to replicate certain scenes word for word, but to rip news reports and remake them to the smallest detail feels more like filler shots than anything else.
My main problem though is with the supporting cast. John Malkovich yawns his way through yet another underwhelming performance, with his brief appearance as Judge Edward Cowart feeling like it was filmed in just a few days. He more or less has his dialogue ripped from the live trial of the real life Ted Bundy, and adds no hint of emotion or interest to any of his lines. Lily Collins is unreservedly poorly cast also as Liz Kendall, with her relationship with Bundy being the focus of the movie, until the movie gets bored of that and moves on to bigger (and worse) subplots.
I struggle to name the audience for this movie. Those who know of the crimes Ted Bundy committed will surely be more interested in the documentaries or the various other forms of media out there detailing his life. For those that know nothing at all about Bundy, you’ll think of him as a charming bloke that didn’t kill anyone. Bundy is portrayed more or less how the media portrayed him at the time, and that’s certainly not a good thing when we can look back with hindsight.
With flailing performances, stock direction and an unwarranted bravado and smugness about it, Extremely Wicked, Shockingly Evil and Vile is nothing close to what the title may suggest: it’s extremely boring, shockingly mediocre and tiring.