Producers: Kim Sherman, Daniel Noah, Lisa Whelan and Elijah Wood   Director: Amber Sealey   Screenplay: Kit Lesser   Cast: Elijah Wood, Luke Kirby, Aleksa Palladino, Robert Patrick, Christian Clemenson, W. Earl Brown and Gilbert Owuor   Distributor: RLJE Films

Grade: B-

There have been plenty of docu-dramas about serial killer Ted Bundy—some would argue too many—but this one presents a different cat-and-mouse perspective than most.  Its focus is not on the effort to track down and arrest Bundy, but on the attempt by FBI agent Bill Hagmaier to induce the jailed killer to confess his crimes before he’s executed.

Hagmaier, a member of the Bureau’s embryonic Behavioral Analysis Unit, volunteered to approach Bundy, then imprisoned in Florida after his conviction in the killing of a twelve-year old girl.  Bundy, who had refused to confess his crimes and harbored a particular hatred of the Feds, nonetheless agreed to talk with Hagmaier over the course of many months.  The young agent developed a rapport with the killer that resulted in Bundy revealing many of the horrendous details of the murders in hopes of postponing his execution. 

Kit Lesser’s screenplay is based on the texts of their conversations, material different from the interviews conducted by journalists Stephen Michaud and Hugh Aynesworth that were employed by Joe Berlinger in his 2019 Netflix documentary “Conversations with a Killer.”  As directed by Amber Sealey, it’s a restrained, low-key affair that studiously avoids sensationalizing the subject; while it attempts, as Hagmaier did, to understand Bundy to some extent, it doesn’t minimize the horrendous nature of his crimes. 

The result is rather like a two-character play, though others appear—an anti-death penalty lawyer, Carolyn Lieberman (Aleksa Palladino) who agitates for more time, a religious broadcaster (Christian Clemenson) whose interview of Bundy is meant to increase his chance for an extension, Hagmaier’s FBI boss (Robert Patrick), the prison warden (W. Earl Brown), interrogators from various states allowed to question Bundy in his final days (one of them an acquaintance of a victim)—the emphasis remains on the killer and the agent, who uses unusual tactics to win Bundy’s trust (mostly by going along with Bundy’s desire to demonstrate his acuity in providing suggestions about unsolved serial-killer cases) and encourage him to be forthcoming.  Sealey and editor Patrick Nelson Barnes keep the narrative from becoming static by including scenes with the additional characters, offering occasional scenes of Hagmaier outside the prison, and interspersing gritty montages of street action to provide some relief from the one-on-one conversations.   

Wood and Kirby are the important positives here, however.  Both are excellent, with the former conveying the earnest quality expected of field agents while suggesting the undercurrents of doubt that had to attach to his assignment, while the latter captures Bundy’s arrogance without overdoing it, as well as the desperation he exhibited as the end drew near much faster than he anticipated.

Not much is required of Michael Fitzgerald’s production design, but the very plainness suits the picture, while cinematographer Karina Silva, Sealey and Barnes mitigate a stage-bound feel through helpful but unobtrusive camera movement.  Clarice Jensen’s score, similarly, doesn’t push too hard.

“No Man Of God” might not be an essential addition to the ever-growing array of films about Ted Bundy, but it’s one of the better ones.