The flawed freshness of ‘Extremely Wicked, Shockingly Evil and Vile’
“Extremely Wicked, Shockingly Evil and Vile” comes with not only an extremely long title but also a decent amount of anticipation — thanks to the infamous story of Ted Bundy coupled with the star power of Zac Efron playing the serial killer. Netflix’s newest film tells the story of Ted Bundy through the eyes of his former girlfriend Liz who, along with many others, is convinced that Bundy is an innocent individual due to his witty ways.
“Extremely Wicked” takes a very interesting approach in its storytelling that may or may not work with some audiences. With the film being portrayed from the perspectives of figures in Bundy’s life who were close to him, Bundy is portrayed very much in a positive light throughout most of the film. Those unaware of who Ted Bundy was may even find themselves rooting for him throughout the runtime. This makes sense, given the point of view in which this story is told and gives the film a distinct identity, but may be jarring to those expecting to see the darker side of Bundy’s life portrayed here.
One of the most surprising elements that makes the film work is lead actor Zac Efron, who was easily the best part of the entire movie. Efron brings an effortless amount of charm to Bundy that could fool audience members into sympathizing with him at times. There is simply a magnetic quality Efron has in the way he embodies this character whenever he has to talk his way out of situations or defend himself. While not the most calculated performance, there is enough charisma to hold the film up tremendously.
The storytelling, while deserving points for attempting to differentiate itself from others in its genre, does have its inconsistencies in execution that don’t go without notice. The most notable problem is in how many of the key moments in Bundy’s life occur without Liz being there to see them, causing confusion as to how she knows certain things went down. While it could be argued that these moments could be her interpretation of how such moments actually happened, the film doesn’t do a solid enough job in connecting the dots for us to fully get it.
The film’s pacing and structure also have some issues. While it is commendable that the film attempts to portray Bundy’s life in a somewhat realistic manner, this causes the overall narrative to have a very jittery quality to it, where we jump from moment to moment without enough in between to pace them out nicely. This is most apparent in the third act, where the film hops between the courtroom and other locations rather frequently. Also, while the movie does have an overall realistic tone to it, there are clearly elements that felt fabricated in its dialogue and pacing that do feel jarring.
“Extremely Wicked, Shockingly Evil and Vile” is a few steps up from your average Netflix flick. Sporting a solid cast, some decent direction and an unconventional way of delivering its narrative, there is plenty to take away from this film that ultimately creates an engaging experience, even despite its hiccups.