Carol and Johnny Image

TRIBECA FILM FESTIVAL 2022 REVIEW! A blurb for Colin Barnicle’s documentary Carol and Johnny presents the film as “surprisingly heartwarming” and “a nostalgic salute to living life on the wild side.” While it is an engrossing tale, it is neither of those light-hearted things. Rather it is a chilling character study of evil and stupidity. Johnny Madison Williams Jr. is a semi-charming sociopath who threatened his young wife, Carol Hawkins-Williams, into becoming his getaway driver and then embarked on an 8-year crime spree in 1986 that made him one of the most successful bank robbers in history.

Together they robbed 56 banks. They were arrested in 1994, and Hawkins-Williams was sentenced to 20 years. Williams Jr. was sentenced to 96 years. She completed her sentence in 2011. He was released in 2021 on a compassionate discharge after he came down with COVID, and the court did not wish to further expose him to it, given his failing health. He is now 71 years of age.

“…Madison Williams Jr….threatened his young wife…and then embarked on an 8-year crime spree…”

Carol and Johnny catches up with Williams Jr. after his release, during his time in a halfway house. The movie delivers a biography of his life, mostly told in Williams Jr.’s own words, with almost no corroboration from people present at the time. Many times he will make a claim or tell a story with details that are immediately contradicted by others saying “that’s not how it happened.” People around him seem to accept that he’s going to retcon his life by embellishing the stories and lying to make himself look smarter and more important. An interesting note about the man’s voice… if you close your eyes, he sounds eerily like Billy Bob Thornton. If this story is ever made into a scripted drama, the casting choice is clear. FBI agent Don Glasser dispels the elaborate yarns William Jr. tells about the agents at Quantico in a war room poring over bank robbery photos. They were caught because of his careless use of a credit card in a place where he stayed long enough to be identified and apprehended.

Perhaps because of his age, Williams Jr. is approached almost whimsically by Barnicle as a relic of a bygone time, with the couple painted as a kind of Bonnie and Clyde for the 1990s. It’s an accurate comparison, but not in the way the filmmaker intended. They are not the beautiful versions played by Warren Beatty and Faye Dunaway in the 1967 film. Williams Jr. and Hawkins-Williams are more like the real-life Clyde Barrow and Bonnie Parker, who were, in fact, ignorant yokels from rural Texas during the Great Depression who robbed and murdered their way into history, culminating in their deaths in a hail of police bullets in 1934. They were neither clever nor glamorous. Carol Hawkins-Williams and Johnny Williams aren’t either. Her sentence was excessive, given that her husband threatened her if she didn’t cooperate with him. She was, in many ways, something of a hostage.

Carol and Johnny (2022)

Directed and Written: Colin Barnicle

Starring: Johnny Madison Williams Jr., Carol Hawkins-Williams, Don Glasser, etc.

Movie score: 7/10

Carol and Johnny Image

"…the intent of the documentarian raises an interesting question."

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published.

Join our Film Threat Newsletter

Newsletter Icon