It's easy to forget with the passage of time just what an intensely good actor Martin Sheen was in his time.
There was a time in the early '70's, before Apocalypse Now, when Sheen seemed to be a regular performer on the old ABC Movie of the Week. From the subtle drama playing Hal Holbrook's lover in That Certain Summer, to the completely over the top performance as the escaped mental patient who kidnaps teenager Linda Blair in Sweet Hostage, Sheen put in a series of strong, eccentric performances and it was in these movies that I first became a fan.
Of his work in theatrical films, my favorite performance of his is in Terrance Malick's debut film, 1973's, Badlands.
Co-starring along with Sissy Spacek as his painfully shy underage girlfriend, Sheen plays Kit, a character based heavily on 1950's spree killer Charles Starkweather. Director Terrance Malick weaves this oddly quiet, almost sedate, story about two young people in love traveling around the stark South Dakota countryside looking for peace while stopping every once and awhile to kill people.
Narrated with teenage gravitas by Spacek in her understated western drawl, the story takes its time getting where it's going, but watching her and Sheen perform with this dreamlike quality through what is a very violent story, is a wonder to watch.