Friday, September 3, 2021

No Man of God Review: A Rich, Conversation-Fueled True Crime Drama

Release date: August 27, 2021
Running time: 101 minutes
Directed By: Amber Sealey (No Light and No Land Anywhere)
Written By: Kit Lesser
Starring: Elijah Wood (The Lord of the Rings Trilogy), Luke Kirby (“The Marvelous Mrs. Maisel”), Aleksa Palladino (The Irishman) and Robert Patrick (Terminator 2)

In 1980, Ted Bundy was sentenced to death by electrocution. In the years that followed, he agreed to disclose the details of his crimes, but only to one man. NO MAN OF GOD is based on the true story of the strange and complicated relationship that developed between FBI agent Bill Hagmaier and an incarcerated Ted Bundy in the years leading to Bundy's execution.

Your enjoyment of this film will depend on how much you like the characters and conversation.  The film is all about the conversations and the interactions between Bundy and Bill.  It is not a fast film, but it is a fascinating one if you are interested in that subject matter.  And this is helped by some great performances, notably from Elijah Wood as Hagmaier and Luke Kirby as Ted Bundy.  The two of them have an interesting rapport, but it is Kirby as Bundy that really steals the stage.  Bundy was known as a charismatic person and Kirby seems to get that balance right.  He is interesting, understanding when needed, but also shows some cold and calculating facets of Bundy when it is appropriate.  It really is an interesting character to observe.  As much as I love Zach Effron, Kirby definitely eclipses the previous Bundy performance with one that is more compelling and decidedly scarier. 

But what also makes No Man of God so interesting is that the film doesn't delve into some of the areas that you would expect to tell this story.  There is no blood, no surprises or fear, the overall movie is toned down, but that is not a bad thing.  The film really is about conversations between these characters, and any reenactments are simply quick flashes.  The film discusses violence, but doesn't depict it to the audience, requiring them to use their imaginations to imagine what Bundy did.  And by doing this, it keeps the focus on the characters rather than some other visualization. 

However, although the film is based on a true story, it is tough to get a sense of how close this story kept to the truth.  Bundy and Hagmaier were real people, but the film does not go into how accurate this portrayal was.  I imagine there were some liberties taken in telling this story to make it more entertaining or convenient.  And I do wish that some of Bundy's more gruesome details were references, as he did some very heinous things.  The movie didn't hide his murders, but some of the more chilling details were not discussed.  Additionally, I wished that the audience was given actual audio from the Bundy tapes to compare, again pointing to the fact that maybe the film took creative liberties.  

No Man of God is an unexpectedly deep exploration of Ted Bundy and FBI profiler Bill Hagmaier, with compelling and chilling performances and a wonderfully rich conversation focused story.    

Watch it.

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No Man of God is available in theaters, digitally, and on demand on August 27, 2021.  

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