Imagine how thrilled Bonnie Parker would be to learn, nearly 80 years after her iconic demise alongside partner-in-crime Clyde Barrow, that their bloody legend is once again fodder for Hollywood, in a new miniseries premiering simultaneously on three — count 'em, three — cable networks. For a Depression-era would-be diva who thirsted for movie-star fame but had to settle for newsreel infamy, this is real staying power.
And if the new Bonnie & Clyde doesn't measure up to the stylistic pizzazz and eternal star power of the groundbreaking 1967 Warren Beatty/Faye Dunaway movie classic, how could it? This much more conventional biopic is a grittier, drabber journey from crime-spree joyride to high-stakes manhunt as their crimes and the ensuing fallout escalate in grim intensity. (The two-part miniseries airs Sunday and Monday at 9/8c, on Lifetime, A&E and History.)
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Throughout, Holliday Grainger (The Borgias) mesmerizes as Bonnie, a porcelain beauty with a heart of pewter, so restless for adventure in her rural Texas backwater that she takes up with baby-faced petty crook Clyde (Emile Hirsch, more callow than cocky), urging him on to bigger and badder deeds. "I'm just a footnote in the story of you," Clyde bristles late in the game. But by then, Bonnie is too cold-bloodedly immersed in her role of a lifetime to care.
What surrounds them can be sketchy as drama — especially whenever Clyde has a portentous vision of their inevitable doom — and needlessly padded, including a subplot featuring a hideously bewigged Elizabeth Reaser as an ambitious reporter enabling their celebrity. But William Hurt is terrific as the retired Texas Ranger who decides he's up for one more takedown if it wipes these brats off the map.
For those who might be wondering why anyone would resurrect this story when it was so indelibly told more than 45 years ago — a sobering detail, that — look no further than the blockbuster ratings earned by the multi-part Hatfields & McCoys a year ago on Memorial Day weekend. Another grim chapter of American history, brilliantly marketed (though not this exhaustively scheduled) and solidly if unimaginatively dramatized, how can they go wrong?