The 193os’ era, Dust Bowl Depression, couples-in-crime saga “Dreamland” (** OUT ****) evokes better memories of Arthur Penn’s “Bonnie & Clyde” (1967), a tragic take on the two star-crossed lovers who terrorized Texas until authorities mowed them down in a fusillade of gunfire.

The difference between director Miles Joris-Peyrafitte’s “Dreamland” and Penn’s classic is the roles of the desperadoes have been reversed. Allison Wells (Margot Robbie of “Suicide Squad”) is a hard-boiled heroine who shares more in common with Clyde Barrow than Bonnie Parker.

Deal Of The Day!

Eugene Baker (Finn Cole of “Slaughterhouse Rulez”) is the wide-eyed youth who marvels at Allison’s bad reputation. A hopeless romantic, Eugene is more like Bonnie, because he sees the world through rose-colored glasses. The two embark on a short-lived crime spree.

One survives and the other dies. Basically, “Dreamland” amounts to a nightmare more than a fantasy. Like some arthouse movies that defy expectations, “Dreamland” complicates its storyline with an adult narrator, Eugene’s half-sister Phoebe (Darby Camp of 2018’s “Benji”), but she is twenty years older now and romanticizes the plight of her ill-fated brother.

Actress Lola Kirke provides Phoebe’s adult voice. The interesting thing about her narration is its inconsistency. Phoebe couldn’t have been around to witness some of Eugene and Allison’s shenanigans.

Meantime, this narration is reminiscent of Terence Mallick’s archetypal crime couple epic “Badlands” (1973) where Sissy Spacek voiced over the events that she participated in with Martin Sheen. Freshman scenarist Nicolaas Zwart of TV’s “Riverdale” and director Miles Joris-Peyrafitte break up the film’s realism with fantasy in a compelling fashion.

Essentially, nothing goes right for anybody, and everybody lies to each other. Presumably, Margot Robbie—who starred in as well as produced “Dreamland”—was drawn to the material, because it gave her a chance to stretch herself as an actress.

The “Harley Quinn” star is not plain Jane enough to pass for a plausible desperado. Too beautiful for her own good, Robbie lacks the required abrasive edge. Mind you, she gives a good account of herself, but she doesn’t behave like a murderous maven.

Eugene is a troubled youth. His father John Barker (newcomer Hans Christopher) abandoned Eugene’s mother, Olivia (Kerry Condon of “Bad Samaritan”), when Eugene was five and fled to Mexico where he boozed himself into oblivion. Later, Olivia married George Evans (Travis Fimmel of TV’s “Vikings”), and they had Eugene’s half-sister Phoebe.

When George isn’t making a “Three Stooges” buffoon of himself, Eugene makes a buffoon of George. Eugene gets him fired because Eugene destroyed incriminating evidence about Allison’s crimes. Eugene and George abhor each another.

Eugene doesn’t look up to George as a role model. Instead, he worships the memory of his dearly departed dad. Eventually, Olivia reveals the truth about John’s demise to Eugene. Desperately, Eugene yearns to run away, so he can be his own man.

The sudden appearance of Allison gives him the perfect opportunity. During a botched bank robbery in Guthrie, Missouri, Allison and her tommy gun t0ting accomplice, Perry Montroy (Garrett Hedlund of “TRON: Legacy”), leave a trail of corpses behind, including an innocent nine-year girl who caught a stray bullet.

Allison is horrified by this revelation. Before she can shed a tear, a policeman wounds her in the right leg. Although they make it out of town, Allison and Perry are surprised when a lone police car pursues them outside of town and a cop fatally wounds Perry. The cops also shoots holes in their radiator, and Allison leaves Perry alone to bleed to death in a desolate cornfield. She seeks refuge in a stable behind the Eugene’s house.

Inclement weather sabotaged George’s best efforts to be a farmer, so he has taken a job as a sheriff’s deputy. When he learns about Allison’s $10,000 bounty, Eugene sets out to capture her. Ironically, he stumbles upon her in their dilapidated barn that George no longer maintains.

When Eugene encounters Allison, she persuades the youth to remove the slug from her thigh with a pair of tweezers. Eugene is so captivated by Allison’s notoriety that he no longer wants to turn her in for the reward.

Instead, she offers him $20 thousand to find some form of transportation that will get her she across the border into the sanctuary of Mexico. Since he believes his biological dad is soaking up the sun down there, Eugene insists on accompanying Allison. Despite her initial reluctance to let Eugene tag along, Allison takes a chance on the restless youth and shows him the ropes of bank robbery.

In most law & order, crime couple capers, the end doesn’t augur well for either protagonist. Eugene has spent his entire life deluding himself with stories about brave heroes in pulp fiction crime magazines and the grim reality of his murderous criminal exploits later sickens him.

What started out as a romantic romp turns into a tragedy of blunders. Unfortunately, these lackluster characters wind up being more stereotypical than original. Eugene and Allison are trite and selfish despite the best efforts of both Margot Robbie and Finn Cole to enliven them with their personal charisma. Zwart and Joris-Peyrafitte should have fleshed out these characters and given them greater substance.

Ultimately, these homicidal hellions neither win our sympathy nor our respect. Meantime, the film’s gritty production values are top-notch. “Antique Roadshow” enthusiasts will drool over the vintage period tableaux and settings, especially the automobiles and furniture. “Thoroughbreds” lenser Lyle Vincent’s atmospheric widescreen cinematography imbues “Dreamland” with the flavor of a National Geographic documentary, particularly when a monstrous dust storm looms ominously in the distance and dwarfs everything.

The best thing about Joris-Peyrafitte direction is the spontaneity with which he orchestrates each scene, particularly a spirited community town hall dance, the second bank robbery, and the tragic finale that leaves one protagonist sprawled in an obscene puddle of blood. “Dreamland” fails to make its characters personable and their predicaments memorable, so in the long run they qualify as little more than hackneyed hysterics.

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