Friday, August 27, 2021

No Man of God: The Bill & Ted Show

One could make a good case celebrated FBI profiler Bill Hagmaier deserves a share of the royalties from books and movies like Silence of the Lambs and The Alienist. He was one of the first to pick the brains of serial killers to glean insights to help catch serial killers, starting with one of the most notorious predators ever: Ted Bundy. Amber Sealey dramatizes the Bill & Ted sessions in No Man of God, which releases today in theaters and on VOD.

In 1984, Pres. Reagan launched the FBI’s National Center for the Analysis of Violent Crime, which pioneered the profiling techniques that are now so familiar on TV procedurals. Hagmaier was a junior, but up-and-coming special agent. He basically drew the short straw with Bundy, who had expressed endless contempt for the Bureau. Nevertheless, the devout Hagmaier somehow won Bundy over with earnestness.

At first, Hagmaier just tried to engage Bundy to see what he might reveal about the serial killer mentality. Yet, the agent clearly hoped Bundy would eventually confess to more of the murders he was suspected of, giving more families closure. However, time becomes an issue when the governor signs an expedited seven-day death warrant for Bundy.

There is no horror in
No Man of God and virtually no thriller elements. It really is verbal cat-and-mouse game, sort of in the moody tradition of Playhouse 90 and Reginald Rose. It is also a better film than the lurid and muddled Extremely Wicked, Shockingly Evil and Vile, but Zac Efron still deserves credit for his go-for-broke performance as Bundy.

Yet, Luke Kirby compares well to him with his more restrained and cerebral turn as Bundy. Elijah Wood makes decency look compelling as Hagmaier and portrays his religious faith with respect. (Frankly, Christian Clemenson’s James Dobson isn’t exactly sympathetically portrayed, but you would expect him to come out looking a whole lot worse.) Of course, it is always fun to see Robert Patrick turn up in a film and he nicely serves as the voice of caution as FBI behavioral science pioneer Roger Depue.

Unlike most notorious true crime dramas,
No Man never feels exploitative—or at least it rarely does. It also has some smart references, including dropping Ann Rule’s name, for “fans” who are deeply steeped in the case. Sealey’s execution (so to speak) is stagey, but in an aesthetically satisfying way. Recommended for those who are fascinated by Bundy and the practice of profiling, No Man of God releases today (8/27) in theaters and on-demand.