In the 90 years since Bonnie & Clyde went down in a hail of state Police issued lead. The immediate response to the two was horror, yes, but also…curiosity? Most wouldn’t admit it but there was something inherently romantic in their “us against the world” way, something very Romeo and Juliet in the way they met their ends together. That being said it shouldn’t come as a surprise that the two almost immediately inspired creative minds to allow themselves a new sub-genre of work, lovers on a crime spree. Johnny & Clyde wasn’t the first, and it isn’t the best, but it….well, it definitely fits the criteria.
I first thought, like I’m sure you did, that this was a new take on the subject making the two titular lovers both men, something that would offer a new view on an overdone subject. We’ll start by clarifying, it’s not. It’s a standard (in the sense of gender roles in the story historically) take, just that the woman in the relationship just happens to be named Clyde (Ajani Russell). She and her paramour Johnny (Avan Jogia) are on an endless crime spree with nothing but their bloodlust and their love keeping them going. Not content with simple bank robberies, the two are actually serial killers who end up having their sights set on knocking over a casino. Unfortunately for them, the casino is owned by Alana Hart (Megan Fox, because, why not?), who takes her security so seriously that she employs supernatural entities and demons to protect her treasures.
If you thought that synopsis took a few too many left turns for your taste then I have properly prepared you for this film. EVERYTHING contained here from start to finish can be properly described as “Extra”. The “plot” itself is on fairly standard rails, bank robbers are on the run headed to a big score with good guys and other bad guys on their tail. Somehow writer director Tom DeNucci took that simple scenario and managed to remove any and all logic. Let me clarify, the crazy parts of this movie…the demons, the sexually sadistic and demented casino boss, the completely out there henchmen, I actually love all that stuff, their existence isn’t the problem. No, the real issue is that they were all utilized in the same way you would see in an early 90s video game. They just randomly pop up along the route with no clear indication of how they got there.
Adding to the painfully unattended to storyline, the film itself just looks cheap. Our “big bad”, Alana Hart’s security demon is straight out of a late 90s direct to video release and the films locations reek of being shot in a (somewhat) dressed up unused warehouse, really just a step above a porno set. I could go on for some time about the problems I had with this film, so in the interest of time I’ll skip ahead to the most glaring issue, our leads. Johnny & Clyde themselves are utterly irredeemable and unlikable, in the case of Clyde there was just nothing there at all, she was little more then an extension of Johnny only doing and saying what he wished for most of the time. I don’t need a deep character piece and, honestly, I like the idea of the main characters being actually evil, but you have to give people some reason to like or connect to them.
In terms of redeeming qualities, there are three clear points I can speak to. First, no matter how poorly executed, the idea behind all of this was solid. I respect the fearlessness that went into bringing this to the screen but sometimes when you’re fearless you end up falling off the roof right onto your face, that’s why they call it a risk. Second, surprisingly, Megan Fox is actually alot of fun and that’s coming from someone that’s not a fan. Maybe she was elevated by the depths of her surroundings but she nailed it as Alana Hart. Last, the cast was peppered with some faces I loved seeing, specifically Vanessa Angel and Robert LaSardo, the latter being one of the most prolific character actors working today. I can’t remember seeing LaSardo in anything high profile since Death Race back in 2008 (though he’s booked over 40 screen credits since then).
Look, Johnny & Clyde swung for the fences. When you do that you either hit the game winning run or you completely wiff, unfortunately it was strike three for the star-crossed lovers. Ultimately what we have is a movie that had a lot of potential but was pulled out of the oven and put on the table WAY too soon. At best you’ll finish watching Johnny & Clyde with an overwhelming feeling of “ehh”, though I can see quite a few folks not making it that far.