Zac Efron’s Time To Shine
Part courtroom drama, part biography, Extremely Wicked, Shockingly Evil and Vile is a chilling portrait of the charming Ted Bundy told through the eyes of the man himself and his wife Liz. With a narrative that jumps back and forth in time, the first half of this picture does feel a little messy as it stumbles through different time periods but when it settles down, Extremely Wicked showcases the acting prowess of Zac Efron who helps this film shine.
The story itself follows the events that led to Ted Bundy’s arrest, along with the subsequent trial that ended with him being found guilty and sentenced to death. Along the way, we see the effect this has on his wife Liz along with his believable act as a man wrongly accused despite overwhelming evidence against him. All of this leads through to the third act that shows the court-room scenes and final conversation between Bundy and Liz while on death row.
For those unfamiliar with Ted Bundy or the story around the murders he committed, I strongly recommend checking out The Ted Bundy Tapes; a four part documentary series on Netflix. This film does assume you already know the story behind this serial killer, making little effort to fill in the blanks left between years while remaining focused on Ted Bundy and the suave nature of his personality that charmed and entranced everyone around him. With piercing blue eyes, a warm smile and an intelligence beyond his years, Zac Efron portrays this man to perfection here. At times you almost forget he’s guilty, as you find yourself questioning the validity of the prosecution statements, such is the intensity of his denial in the face of this evidence.
With a mix of archival footage and jumping perspectives between Liz and Ted, parts of the film do feel a little messy and uneven. The pacing is generally okay though but it’s not until the end of the film where the true Ted Bundy reveals himself and the veil is lifted. As a minor gripe I would have liked the film to follow a more linear narrative, showcasing the two sides of Bundy throughout the picture, but the second half certainly improves with this, cutting down on the flashbacks and focusing solely on the courtroom drama to great effect.
It’s worth mentioning there’s some nice camera work here too. Multiple rotating shots, slick tracking movements and an array of interesting composition of shots combine to make Extremely Wicked a very technically sound film. The various 70’s rock songs that crop up throughout the film help ground this in the time period too and seeing all the women regarding Ted at the same level as a dreamy rock star gives the film a dark sense of irony given the choice of music.
It’s not perfect and at times the narrative is a little messy but there’s enough here to make for a very enjoyable film and one of the bigger surprises this year. While Liz’s angle is an interesting one, especially seeing her confliction over whether her husband is guilty or not, this film ultimately serves as a platform to showcase what a talented actor Efron really is. For that alone, Extremely Wicked is well worth a watch and one of the better films released in 2019 so far.