Sunday, June 5, 2022

#2,764. No Man of God (2021) - 2021 Horror Movies


In 1985, the FBI was in the early stages of developing its profiler division, also known as the BAU, or Behavioral Analysis Unit. Agents in the BAU look at crime from a behavioral aspect, attempting to understand what it is that motivates an individual to commit murder, in the hopes such information will bring killers to justice in a timely fashion.

Based on a true story, director Amber Sealey’s No Man of God centers on a series of interviews conducted by Agent Bill Hagmaier (played here by Elijah Wood), a new recruit to the bureau, during which he talked with notorious serial killer Ted Bundy (Luke Kirby), at the time on death row in Florida for kidnapping and murdering a 12-year-old girl.

Warned at the outset by both his superior Roger Depue (Robert Patrick) and the prison’s warden (W. Earl Brown) that Bundy, who hated the FBI, would likely not cooperate, Hagmaier nonetheless established a rapport with the infamous killer, and would meet with him regularly until 1989, when Bundy was put to death in the electric chair.

Ted Bundy, who for years maintained his innocence, was as clever as he was dangerous, and proved to be a fascinating case study. Aided in his final days by civil attorney Carolyn Lieberman (Aleska Palladino), who was fighting to delay his execution, Bundy nonetheless requested to talk to Hagmaier one last time, vowing he would finally come clean. For his part, Hagmaier wanted to know the truth so that the families of Bundy’s many victims (he would eventually confess to 30 murders) might find some closure. But will the enigmatic killer actually confess, or will Bundy take his secrets with him to the grave?

Though dialogue-heavy, No Man of God is at times an intoxicating motion picture, an edge-of-your-seat thriller that grows more intense with each passing scene. The early give-and-take between Hagmaier and Bundy reminds me of similar exchanges between Clarice Starling and Hannibal Lecter in The Silence of the Lambs, with Bundy feeling out Hagmaier by prying into the agent’s personal life. When Hagmaier doesn’t back down, telling the serial killer about his unhappy childhood and his alcoholic father, Bundy himself begins to open up, and watching the rapport build between the two was quite fascinating.

Wood delivers a strong performance as Hagmaier, perfectly expressing the inner conflict his character experiences as he and Bundy continue their conversations, admiring the killer’s sharp mind (Bundy even helps Hagmaier on occasion by providing insight into the actions of serial killers still at large) while at the same time realizing justice must be served, and Bundy must die.

Aleska Palladino is also good as the well-meaning civil attorney out to stop the execution (for her, killing is killing, whether committed by Bundy or the State), but it is Luke Kirby’s mannered, chilling portrayal of Ted Bundy that steals the show. Going from cold and calculating at the outset to desperate and frightened in the later scenes (when his date with the electric chair is fast approaching), Kirby manages to convey Bundy’s intelligence without losing sight of what he was, or the heinous crimes he committed. It is an amazing performance, and does its part to make No Man of God a compelling, absorbing, and very disturbing motion picture.
Rating: 9.5 out of 10

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