Crime Library: Criminal Minds and Methods

The Lonely Hearts Killers


Continuation of Katherine Ramsland's review of the Movie Lonely Hearts

While Fernandez might have been content to simply rob women (reportedly over 100), once Beck crosses his path, more potent demons emerge. She's a jealous lover, and Fernandez's tendency to consummate his faux relationships before getting the dough ignites her fury. Since she has little regard for others she has no trouble "removing" temptation, and in these scenes Hayek ably conveys Beck's cold-blooded rage. Yet Leto is a good match, as he portrays a two-bit Lothario who's in over his head but who's nevertheless addicted to his viperous partner.

Movie poster: Lonely Hearts
Movie poster: Lonely Hearts

Beck's overbearing neediness escalates their violence and one wonders at times if Fernandez participates in the murders in lieu of killing Beck. Just before their arrest, he seems enveloped in the turmoil of a man who's about to either flee or explode. Such is the evolution of many serial-killing duos; often, one has doubts and thus turns the tide against them both.

One glaring (albeit merciful) inconsistency is how the film revels in the gory details of adult murders but avoids that of a child; similarly, we get the entire disturbing experience of the execution of Fernandez but not of Beck. Not that we want to see such terrible scenes, but the abrupt delicacy is like finding a teaspoon in the knife drawer. Yet when the full scope of the violence is shown, it gets quite gruesome: all knives are drawn.

Narcissistic and self-deluded to the end, the killers' just desserts once captured draw a fairly depressing movie to a close. Yet it's at this juncture that the actual story became sensational, and for some reason, the detailed confessions, replete with descriptions of lurid sex, have been overlooked. While obvious only to those who know the story, it's nevertheless disappointing; it's what made the twosome a convincing couple. But then, that wasn't the purpose of this film.

Todd Robinson says he decided to make it after looking over a listing of true crime cases and stumbling across the Beck/Fernandez tale. It triggered memories of the stories his grandfather would tell, and he recalled this one in particular. His grandfather had been in on it. Yet even with this personal connection, the cops' part of the story is lumbering and seems unresolved, perhaps because it was really the Michigan police who brought this killing couple to ground.

Lonely Hearts flirts with the sordid story of Beck and Fernandez the way Badlands once utilized Charles Starkweather's murderous spree in the 1950s: it's not really the story we expect, but it's not altogether disappointing, either. For those who enjoy a detective film, it's at least an intriguing experiment.

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