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  No Man of God The Great Profile?
Year: 2021
Director: Amber Sealey
Stars: Elijah Wood, Luke Kirby, Aleksa Palladino, Robert Patrick, W. Earl Brown, Gilbert Uwuor, Christian Clemenson, Hugo Armstrong, Nican Robinson, Will Harris, Emily Berry, Steven Pritchard, Jarrett Sleeper, Doug Cox, Tom Virtue, John Wilcox, Austin Uku
Genre: BiopicBuy from Amazon
Rating:  6 (from 1 vote)
Review: In 1985, it had been five years since serial killer Ted Bundy (Luke Kirby) had been sentenced to death in the electric chair for the murders of thirty women and girls, though police were aware that this number may have been the tip of the iceberg. The trouble was, Bundy liked to string the authorities along by withholding information about his crimes so nobody could entirely be sure of what he had committed, but then came a special unit set up by the FBI that was designed to interview and analyse the minds of serial killers, since the crime had become such a problem in recent years.

Anything they could find out to help them stop other killers was going to be useful, they reasoned, and a small group of agents were assigned to a handful of the big cases... Enter Bill Hagmaier (Elijah Wood), a youngish agent who had started his career planning to be a counsellor, therefore ideal for delving into some, shall we say, disturbed minds and working out what made them tick. He was the man assigned to Bundy, and despite the murderer being notoriously unfriendly to the law, he managed to make some progress over the four years they intermittently spoke to one another. Bundy was appealed to with the promise of being able to give his opinions on other serial killers as yet uncaught with the hope he would see something in their histories or crime scene photos the cops had not.

Naturally, he proved utterly useless at this since it was simply geared to feeding his monstrous ego rather than catching any others. On a different tack, Hagmaier believed he could gain that insight needed by understanding how Bundy had come to his killings, and translate that information to other cases, as if he could spot a pattern, he could use it against other criminals. Here his subject proved difficult again, though obviously glad of the attention as it flattered him into believing he was a lot more interesting as an individual than he really was: it was really only his rape and murder convictions that distinguished him, and if he believed that made him an interesting person then he was sorely mistaken.

That's an issue here; based on real life transcripts between Bundy and Hagmaier, we are aware that Bundy was not saying anything that a psychologist could not tell you with more comprehensive detail. The suspicion is he was better off rotting in his cell for the rest of his life being largely ignored is one that gains validity the further this progresses and he laps up the attention the FBI and public are giving him. That would be the real punishment for such an attention-seeker, thought the relish we see of certain members of the public parading outside the prison in news footage is not exactly encouraging, yes, we were talking about a serial killer, but there was nothing to celebrate about any of this, not least the tragedies of families losing daughters in such a horrendous manner.

So, if this was not anything you could not have worked out for yourself, what did director Amber Sealey bring to the table? She had brought out two very good central performances to keep what was essentially a gabfest boiling away, and every so often would shift her focus onto a peripheral woman who in other circumstances could have been a victim. They do not say much, but their presences accuse in a piercing way that the high on bloodlust mob outside the walls do not. Bundy's last lawyer was indeed a woman, Polly Nelson, but she is replaced here with a fictional character played by Aleksa Palladino, possibly because Nelson became a controversial figure. But really, for all its impressive credentials, No Man of God has about as much to say on Bundy as the man himself did. A lot of times a creep is just a creep, and a murderous one at that, not worth the disproportionate interest: save the interest for the victims. Effective music by Clarice Jensen (and a very good poster).

[Amber Sealey's 'No Man of God' Special Edition Blu-ray Release on 25 October 2021 & on digital now.]
Reviewer: Graeme Clark

 

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