Stories involving serial killers have been very popular within entertainment media. Ever since classic works like “Se7en,” “American Psycho” and shows like “Mindhunter,” we’ve been fascinated with serial killers. One of the most fascinating was the psychopath Ted Bundy and his entire twisted life. “No Man of God” follows Bundy (Luke Kirby) in prison and the relationship he forms with FBI Analyst Bill Hagmaier (Elijah Wood). The film is set as a series of conversations between the two men, leading up to Bundy’s execution in 1989.
The story doesn’t tell us anything necessarily new about Bundy, to be frank. If you have done any research, you will find that this is a very “blanket” look at Hagmaier decoding what made him do what he did. The reason that any of the material presented in “No Man of God” works comes from the knockout performances of both Kirby and Wood. Meeting Wood as agent Hagmaier, we clearly understand the fear and reservation about being face to face with this notorious killer.
Their discussion goes much further than just Bundy’s crimes, which make the most of its material. These two men dissecting their philosophies is fascinating to listen to, especially when we learn more about Hagmaier. Wood provides a wide-eyed innocence that falls for Bundy’s charm as someone who wants to learn all that he can. But, simultaneously, we get to see just how Hagmaier looked at this as an opportunity to learn about the mind of serial killers. Watching this conversation unfold, I found it to be incredibly gripping, thanks to their dynamite performances.
What is undeniable is that the lengths of these conversations go to places that not every audience member will like. Your enjoyment of the film is really going to be dependent on how you can stomach the violence. While none of that violence is shown on screen, the description is quite hard to withstand. Having the chance to listen to a Q&A with Wood, Kirby and director Vanessa Sealey, you can hear that the brutal conversation was the point. Having the audience squirm as they learn about this depraved man really helps racket tension. Clocking in at one-hundred minutes long, the film certainly seemed to succeed with that mission in mind.
Since the film mostly consists of a lengthy conversation, it’s not going to be for everyone. There’s a staleness here that could leave audiences confused and just all around bored. But, if you’re like me and didn’t really know the history behind Bundy’s time in prison, you’re still going to want to learn more when the film is over. The script by “Doctor Strange” writer C.Robert Cargill focuses on the dynamic between these two men. Watching it unfold is something that crackles due to the organic feel of the relationship.
“No Man of God” is one of the more interesting true murder mysteries we’ve had in recent years. Much like Netflix’s “Mindhunter,” it’s the sort of film that serves as an epilogue to what we consider the detective story. The film essentially deconstructs the “why” behind “how” certain brutalities had ever occurred. The film tackling more psychology opens up an interesting conversation about ethics on both the right and wrong side of the law. We have two great central performances to deconstruct psychology, even if the answers are what we’ve heard before.