Johnny & Clyde (2023): Film Review
Tom DeNucci’s Johnny & Clyde is a sluggish misfire from start to finish, squandering its fun premise with severely underdeveloped characters and flat direction.
On paper, Johnny & Clyde should be a fun film. Its premise is admittedly great – it’s about a group of quirky serial killers who fight the Grim Reaper and it also features Megan Fox as the moustache-twirling villain, who spends the majority of the film hiding away in her office shooting anyone who talks to her. Unfortunately, though, Tom DeNucci’s direction robs the film of any potential energy it could have generated, resulting in a complete misfire that even the most diehard Fox fans should leave alone. She’s had, and will have, much better roles across her career, and whilst she is the best part of this film, it’s not in the slightest worth the 100-minute commitment.
Johnny & Clyde, similar to Bonnie and Clyde (1967), the classic film that inspired its title, follows the two titular serial killers, head over heels in love with each other, (played by Avan Jogia and Ajani Russel) who decide to rob a seemingly understaffed casino, ran by crime boss Alana Hart (Megan Fox). In typical heist movie fashion, they recruit a band of quirky criminals, each one crazier than the last, only to discover that the mission isn’t as easy as they thought, as Alana has hired a supernatural bodyguard to help her out. Conceptually, it’s a fun story, but it massively suffers from just how uninteresting its characters are. There’s a severe lack of anything resembling an interesting character trait, and the dialogue is consistently missing any kind of wit to help make it compelling.
This results in a story that struggles to do anything except slowly trudge through its predictable, dull beats. By the time the entire crew was introduced and the big heist began, I struggled to recall anything about any of the characters I’d just been introduced to, because there was just nothing for me to engage with. A bad story can be saved by a fun character, but even the funniest, most extravagant narrative crumbles if its characters can’t leave any kind of mark. The one exception is the main antagonist, Alana Hart, who manages to stand out solely thanks to a fun performance from Fox. She isn’t brilliant by any means, but in a film like this, that is so devoid of any kind of life, she, at the very least, attempts to make it watchable.
Technically, DeNucci tries to add some visual flair through his lighting, but it ends up looking disappointingly flat. Again, it’s held back by the overall lack of energy. The rough cinematography could have been somewhat saved if the editing had any kind of flair to it at all. This is a heist movie that isn’t taking itself seriously at all, yet the editing is so boring from start to finish. There’s no pace to it, no creativity, no sense of identity. It just feels like the filmmakers have taken the easy way out, opting for the safest, most boring choice at every opportunity, resulting in a sluggish film that feels far longer than its 100-minute runtime.
The climax of the film is arguably its strongest point, as whilst the actual heist itself is devoid of any real urgency and so barely registers to the audience as a dangerous experience for our main characters, it does feature the film’s only successful attempt at creating interesting visuals. The Grim Reaper himself, who features as the film’s final boss, has a genuinely creative and menacing design, with it almost feeling like they poured the film’s entire budget into a single character. With that being said though, it’s hard to classify this as an actual positive for the film when the character himself features for about five minutes in total.
I struggle to see who exactly Johnny & Clyde is for. There are much better films about serial killers in love out there, there are much better heist films out there and there are much better dark comedies out there. Even for those who are interested in the Megan Fox performance, she doesn’t actually feature that often, only appearing occasionally to shoot someone in the head, so it barely feels worth it in that regard. Perhaps in the hands of a different director, there could have been something here, but as it is, it’s so devoid of energy and life that watching it feels more akin to a challenge than an enjoyable experience.
Johnny & Clyde will be released in US theaters and on demand on May 5, 2023.