Serial killers are all the rage these days. Similar to Netflix’s dark drama series Mindhunter, director Amber Sealy and writer Kit Lesser (Sinister) present No Man of God, which examines charismatic murderer Ted Bundy (Luke Kirby in an uncanny portrayal) through interviews and analysis amongst the creation of FBI profiling. The true crime film starts us in 1985, shortly after Bundy’s capture and conviction. From here, it charts his relationship with analyst Bill Hagmaier (Elijah Wood), all the way up to Bundy’s death by electric chair in 1989. There is definite inspiration from Silence of the Lambs, which was in turn inspired by Bundy’s original tapes with Hagmaier.
To get the inevitable out of the way, Ted Bundy has been approached cinematically several times by now, so comparisons are bound to happen. However, Amber Sealy’s movie tries to form its own identity through both the power of the performances, and by showcasing zoom-in reactions of women to Ted’s crimes and words. The only other onscreen depictions I have seen of the killer were in 2002’s exploitative and awful Ted Bundy, as well as 2019’s intriguing Zac Efron vehicle, Extremely Wicked, Shockingly Evil and Vile. No Man of God is a completely different kind of film from either of those, and extra attention is given to take an avenue portraying Bundy as less of a person and more of a conniving insecure monster.
This is essentially a movie about two people, and each gets almost equal focus. Elijah Wood plays Bill as a complicated naive newbie dying to sink his teeth into something real. Bundy turned down a TV special for $50,000 and hates the cops, but Bill is convinced that he can be the one to get Bundy to open up. Bundy thinks the cops are all “liars in cheap suits.” Despite numerous warnings like “when you get too close to a guy like this, you could lose your way,” Bill talks with Bundy year after year as his creepy tales begin bleeding into Bill’s home life. On the other hand, Luke Kirby portrays Ted with a cool calculated indifference, an unnerving calm that carries a creepy aura of intimidation. As Bundy’s acquaintanceship with Bill morphs into more, you begin to feel a uncomfortable layer of grime forming.
I would be remiss not to point out the delightful The Faculty reunion between actors Elijah Wood and Robert Patrick, one which happens very early on in the movie. They don’t share much screentime afterwards, but I’ll be damned if I wasn’t thrilled to see these two together once more. Sadly, the first act of the movie is very slowly-paced, and this represented an enticing joy during the introduction. The action picks up significantly as No Man of God powers towards its climax.
I didn’t learn much of anything new about serial killer Ted Bundy, but that is mainly because the subject has been mined for material so many times already. It starts off quite slow and takes awhile to fully pick up the pace. Sealy overuses archival footage, though sporadically it works. The biggest reason to watch No Man of God is for Luke Kirby’s disturbing portrayal of Ted Bundy and Elijah Wood’s FBI-interrogator. As the dialogue between the duo crackles with chemistry, No Man of God reaches its atmospheric high point.
No Man of God screened at the 2021 Tribeca Film Festival, June 11th. It arrives in theaters this August, from RLJE Entertainment.