Johnny & Clyde (2023) Review
It’s no coincidence that Johnny & Clyde sounds a lot like Bonnie and Clyde. Helping to usher in a new level of violence in mainstream film, Arthur Penn’s film is one of the most influential and imitated films of its time. One can draw a line from Clyde Barrow and Bonnie Parker to Mickey and Mallory Knox, Oliver Stone’s Natural Born Killers.
And from there to the latest film from director Tom DeNucci (Vault, Army of the Damned) and co-writer Nick Principe, who is probably better known for lending his imposing presence to films like Laid to Rest and FP2: Beats of Rage.
Alana Hart (Megan Fox, Till Death, Jonah Hex) owns a casino in Ocean City, she also owns the gun used to kill JFK, which should tell you a lot about her. And it means it’s no surprise when we see her kill a reporter (Vanessa Angel, Hustle Down, King of New York) who asks some inconvenient questions.
Johnny (Avan Jogia, Resident Evil: Welcome to Raccoon City, Zombieland: Double Tap) and Clyde (Ajani Russell, Betty, Skate Kitchen) have returned home to Ocean City after a cross-country killing spree. And while they’re back, they have a plan to put together a crew and rob Alana’s casino. But she and Vince (Tyson Ritter, Preacher, Peppermint), her head of security, have a surprise up their sleeve.
Johnny & Clyde starts out as a crime film filled with over-the-top characters that also include the vengeance-seeking father of one of the duo’s victims (Armen Garo, Dexter: New Blood, Vinyl), Zhang (Bai Ling, Night Caller, Lockdown) and the psychopaths. Candlestick (Robert LaSardo, Amber Road, Of the Devil), Baker (Charles W Harris III, Uncle Rufus’ Last Request, Queen of the Trap House) and Butcher played by co-writer Principe.
None of these characters are remotely likable, though I think the idea was for the audience to respond to Johnny, Clyde and their crew the way they did to Rob Zombie’s Firefly clan. And I did respond the same way, I wanted to see them dead. Rest assured you will get to see plenty of people die once the robbery gets underway and the demon Bakwas, also played by Principe, who Alana has guarding the casino’s money makes an appearance. A fair amount of that killing is still done by other humans, although most of the onscreen gore, and there isn’t much, is courtesy of Bakwas.
In an interview, DeNucci talked about how scripts usually have multiple drafts, but Johnny & Clyde was written by May and started shooting in September. The lack of rewrites is noticeable, as none of the film’s characters are given any development and while Principe referred to them as “entertaining psychopaths” they’re more like annoying caricatures. More than one of the supporting roles are so irrelevant they could have been eliminated and not been missed.
Similarly, the basic plot line had potential, but the script spends too much time trying to be edgy and too little time coming up with anything that’s actually entertaining. The actual robbery itself is mildly diverting, but easily could have been much better. That’s somewhat surprising as Principe was in The Last Heist, a film that covered similar territory and suffered similar problems. You think he would have learned from it.
If you like the kind of edgy films where everyone is a scumbag and the most likeable of them is a nonverbal demon, you might enjoy Johnny & Clyde. Apart from a couple of action scenes, and the use of some practical effects, I was unamused.
Defiant Screen Entertainment has released Johnny & Clyde on DVD and Digital Platforms in Australia and New Zealand. Redbox will release it in the US on May 5th. If you’re looking for something similar, but hopefully better, FilmTagger can offer some suggestions.