Infamous opens on the scene of a botched bank robbery. The room is littered with cash, bodies, and chaos. In a quiet corner, a pretty girl records herself on her cell phone, asking, “is this my destiny?” In a film centered around the idea that millennials will do quite literally anything to get internet-famous, it’s an important question: are we defined by the choices that we make, or are those choices forced upon us by circumstances? Does a culture of social media bring you to this blood soaked moment, or does your own selfishness and greed? And either way, is posting an Insta-story really the best use of your time when you are being swarmed by cops?
On its most basic level, the premise for Infamous could best be summarized by throwing together as many Florida clichés as you can think up, and not in a satirical Good Place manner. In short, a white trash diner waitress hooks up with an ex-con in the back of his car before embarking on a poorly-planned crime spree.
Arielle (Bella Thorne) is a just an ordinary girl stuck in a small town, saving her tips and counting her paltry followers until she can afford to head out to Hollywood. After she gets in a drunken brawl at a party, a video of the altercation goes viral, getting more likes overnight than all of her selfies combined. Arielle then meets Dean (Jake Manley), a mechanic with a criminal record and, after a more sedated drunken party, the pair begin a torrid affair, which is documented through a montage of the couple kissing in different locations at different times of day. Or, as it’s known in Florida, the greatest love story ever told.
Arielle and Dean continue to bond over romantic activities like target practice and buying a gun from a sketchy guy in a parking lot. When Arielle’s life savings is stolen and Dean accidentally pushes his father down a flight of stairs, they hold up a liquor store before heading out on the road. However, things get complicated when, unbeknownst to Dean, Arielle posts a video of the robbery to a dummy social account, which attracts three thousand followers overnight. This should perhaps come as less of a surprise to Dean. After Arielle filmed a major crime, took a series of glamour shots of herself licking the cash, then proceeded to have sex with her boyfriend while he was busy driving, she can hardly be accused of making good life choices. Dean is initially hesitant to bring this kind of attention to their exploits, but reluctantly agrees to hit up a marijuana dispensary and let Arielle continue to live her best digital life. The duo then proceed to Bonnie and Clyde their way across the country, raking in the cash and racking up millions of followers on the way.
Despite some solid and engaging performances from Thorne and Manley, neither of their characters ever really feel sympathetic. After their first hold up, Dean asks Arielle why she posted the video, risking their lives and freedom in the process. Arielle shrugs and simply says, “I thought it was something that people would want to see.” This perfectly sums up her attitude throughout the movie. As their crimes become more extreme and ultimately violent, Arielle rarely hesitates and never shows remorse, driven more by her own sociopathic narcissism than having followers.
Dean, on the other hand, serves as the voice of reason, constantly complaining about Arielle’s reckless actions and posts. Yet he always drops these criticisms and follows her on this downward spiral, only occasionally pausing to point out how inadvisable it is in practice. By sticking so unwaveringly to their roles as the unstoppable force and the ineffectual voice of reason, neither partner gets to develop in a fully satisfying way. They’re merely caricatures reacting predictably to a series of crazy scenarios.
Still, from high speed car chases to gun fights with the cops, the scenarios these lovers get involved in are consistently crazy. That level of insanity keeps the film fun and engaging, even when its story gets lost in some overly convenient logic, and the social media angle fizzles from intriguing social commentary to simple plot device. When the cops figure out the gang’s identity, Arielle says that the videos didn’t get them caught, the robberies did. Similarly, this isn’t really a story about social media. It’s about a girl giving in to her own worst instincts, so long as she gets a few likes and shares in the process.
Verdict: 3 out of 5 stars.
Infamous suffers from a patchy plot and shallow social commentary. Still, it makes up for some of these shortcomings with wild performances from the two leads and some manic action scenes. While audiences won’t be mashing the “like” button for these characters, their exploits prove entertaining enough to keep you subscribed for at least a couple of hours.