‘No Man of God’ Review: Buddying Up to Bundy

‘No Man of God’ Review: Buddying Up to Bundy

“No Man of God” can’t help but play like the special Ted Bundy episode of “Mindhunter” we haven’t gotten to see yet. The movie, directed by Amber Sealey, dramatizes what it sees as the rapport that developed between Bundy (Luke Kirby) and the F.B.I. profiler Bill Hagmaier (Elijah Wood), who visited Bundy in prison and tried to pick his brain.

While they aren’t the only two characters — Robert Patrick appears as Hagmaier’s boss, and Aleksa Palladino plays a lawyer trying to get Bundy a reprieve from execution — the movie is at heart a two-hander, with tense scenes of Bundy and Hagmaier interrogating each another. Will Hagmaier get Bundy to share every grisly detail? Or will Bundy crack him? In this telling, they grow comfortable enough for at least Bundy to consider it a friendship.

For anyone who has heard audio of Bundy, Kirby’s impersonation will sound chillingly close to the real killer’s deadened, yet at times disturbingly raffish, cadence. Wood is persuasive, too, although Kit Lesser’s script writes the character as a cliché: the agent who gets too close.

Introductory text says the film is inspired by F.B.I. transcripts, recordings and Hagmaier’s recollections, but the conversations carry a distinct echo of other serial-killer movies. Bundy wants to convince Hagmaier that he, too, would be capable of murder, and that they think similar thoughts. The mind meld becomes so intense that when Bundy unburdens himself toward the end, Sealey employs crosscutting that draws attention to the connections between them, and has Hagmaier recite dialogue that should logically be coming out of Bundy’s mouth. The film’s Hagmaier may finally have gotten inside Bundy’s head, but — even in the forthrightly nonrealistic context of the sequence — the mental-linkage conceit is absurd.

No Man of God
Not rated. Running time: 1 hour 40 minutes. In theaters and available to rent or buy on Amazon, Apple TV and other streaming platforms and pay TV operators.

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