The classic crime film Bonnie and Clyde (1967) still feels shocking to this day. In the final scene (spoiler!), the anti-heroes perish in a hail of machine gun fire that feels like it bursts out of the screen and rakes the audience. It’s a masterpiece of brutality, and it set the tone for some great films that followed in its footsteps, like Natural Born Killers and True Romance. It might not be fair to reference such predecessors in a review of the shallow and maddening Infamous, and yet the film itself explicitly invokes the bank robbing paramours that captivated the nation and inspired the 1967 film. Unlike the characters portrayed by Faye Dunaway and Warren Beatty, the scruffy hoodlums of Infamous don’t inspire so much as repel.

The new ingredient here is the invisible power of social media. Arielle (Bella Thorne) is a waitress and high school dropout living on the “redneck Riviera” of Florida. She trudges around smoking and pouting at the sunset, and the only thing that seems to light up her face is her phone when she checks her status. Her paltry number of followers echoes the neglect she feels in her daily life. Her mother yells, her mother’s boyfriend leers and her friends all disappear into their own phones. Everything about Arielle’s life feels like kindling. When she finds Dean (Jake Manley), a moody dude working on his muscle car down the street, she finds the spark she needs to set it all ablaze. A couple of screaming and stomping scenes later, the young couple is on the road with no money and no direction but plenty of desperation.

This is a very American story–outlaw lovers with a car, a gun, the open road and a dream. Arielle, however, won’t tell Dean what her dream is, insisting that he has to earn that knowledge. He doesn’t have much to say, and Arielle is clearly in charge. Bella Thorne gives a fire-breathing performance as a budding psychopath with outbursts that start as haunted looks, then build from a whisper to a scream in the space of a single line reading. Dean is caught in her gravity. He’s already done time for armed robbery, so holding up a convenience store is old hat for him. What he’s not ready for is Arielle’s insistence on live-streaming the whole event to her fans. Won’t that get them busted? No, she insists – it will get them followers.

She’s right, too. On-screen graphics show their numbers skyrocketing for every heist they pull off, until they have many millions of fans following their exploits as they don masks and wigs and wave guns in the faces of terrified clerks at gas stations across the Southland. It’s only a matter of time before things go wrong, of course. Throughout it all, Arielle thinks only of fame – she wants to make it to Hollywood and become a star. It’s a comically childish fantasy, steeped in blood and chaos, and as the story progresses it becomes harder and harder to understand why Dean doesn’t just leave her behind and save himself.

The one moment of grace occurs when they carjack a young woman only to discover that she’s one of their followers. Elle (Amber Riley) is a soft-spoken woman who offers to help them despite the fact that they’re waving guns in her face. Her presence humanizes the madness even as she plays into it, and she eventually asks to join their headlong adventure. It’s a startling turn that could take the story in an entirely new direction. But Arielle and Dean seem locked into their destiny, just as Infamous seems locked into mimicking the brutality and nihilism of the Bonnie and Clyde story without really exploring the drama at its core.

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