By Dr. Zaius
Wednesday, June 21st, 2017 at 4:00 pm
The Bad Batch Written & Directed by Ana Lily Amirpour
Cast: Suki Waterhouse, Jason Momoa, Keanu Reeves, Giovanni Ribisi, Jim Carrey, Jayda Fink Annapurna Pictures | Neon Films
Rated R | 115 Minutes
Release Date: June 23rd, 2017
In 2014’s A Girl Walks Home Alone at Night, writer/director Ana Lily Amirpour showcased her unique style, blending genres while maintaining a minimalist approach. Her Iranian vampire/spaghetti western film earned international acclaim, but also garnered a lot of reviews uttering the phrase “style over substance.” In her latest film, The Bad Batch, she adheres to all of these traits, positive and negative, again. The Bad Batch is at times brutally violent, at times wonderfully poignant, and all together completely bizarre. It’s one of those films where it ends and you kind of just sit there pondering for a few seconds as the credits roll. What did I just watch? Did I love this movie or hate it? The one thing that sticks with me is what I wrote mid-film, “This is like if Mad max f*cked The Neon Demon.”
The Bad Batch is set sometime in the near dystopian future, in the vastness of the Texas desert. A young girl is tattooed with a number and sent to survive amongst “The Bad Batch.” Arlen (Suki Waterhouse) is quickly captured by a group of cannibal bikers, many of whom look like they’re fresh out of the Mr. Universe competition. She is slowly and brutally maimed, losing an arm and a leg in graphic detail. She manages to somehow fight her way out and escape, in a harrowing scene that could become one of legend. Amirpour utilizes the scope of her scenery here phenomenally. The dry plains of the California desert locations are a cinematographer’s dream, and Lyle Vincent frames some amazing shots. The visual effects are also great as Arlen crawls one armed and one legged via skateboard into the wasteland as the vultures swirl around her.
Eventually Arlen is helped along by a mysterious hermit (an unrecognizable Jim Carrey) and dumped at the gateway to Comfort, a settlement led by the mysterious “Dream” (Keanu Reeves). Here she is rehabilitated, and given a leg to stand on (sorry for the pun). As Arlen recoups, we are introduced to Miami Man (Jason Momoa), one of the cannibal muscle-heads who relishes his brutal life. A devoted father and husband, he only kills Bad Batch newbies to ensure survival. Amirpour uses the different wasteland locations to juxtapose the haves and have nots; but she quickly blurs the line between who is who. Sure Momoa’s character is a vicious murdering cannibal, but he’s made the most of this existence, securing a family and what seems to be happiness. Meanwhile in Comfort, people are safe and protected, but some like The Screamer (Giovanni Ribisi) are lost and desperate. Arlen is so apathetic to the “comforts” of Comfort that she regularly leaves and heads back out in the dangerous wastelands. Amirpour’s message here somehow walks the line between subtle and overbearing.
The crux of the story and plot comes after Arlen finds Miami Man’s wife and daughter rummaging for supplies, shoots the mom, and takes possession of Honey (Jayda Fink). Miami Man goes in search for her, bringing him to some genuinely funny and weird scenes between him and the Hermit, as well as his own dangers in the no man’s land between his cannibal trailer park and Comfort . Meanwhile, inside Comfort, Arlen watches over Honey as the community drugs up and parties with The Dream. Reeves plays The Dream as a cross between Jim Jones and Hugh Hefner. He lives in the only building in Comfort (or the entire desert for that matter), a sprawling playboy mansion-esque estate surrounded by a bevy of gorgeous pregnant girls who are soon to have baby-Dreams.
Eventually, Arlen has to make a choice. She’s Bad Batch for sure, but what kind of Bad Batch does she want to be? There are many interesting socio-economic debates layered throughout the film, but Amirpour can’t seem to make up her mind if she wants the audience to care about the underlying issues or the characters… or either… or neither. This was truly a strange film. There are no conventional heroes, there’s barely a narrative plot, there are long stretches with little to no dialogue, there is no introduction to this dark future world, and no definitive conclusion. In many ways, as I’m writing this, I feel there’s little use in recommending the film, but then again I was infinitely fascinated by it.
The cinematography and scope are beautiful and the acting is on point. Jason Momoa looks as imposing as he does in his action roles (Conan, Game of Thrones, but then turns on a dime to act the part of loving father. Ana Lily Amirpour created a film that bares resemblance to and no doubt pays homage to many other films. Along with obvious nods to Mad Max films like Fury Road and The Road Warrior, Comfort felt akin to Alexandria in The Walking Dead. Despite a feeling of deja vu permeating the screen, somehow it ends up feeling wholly original. In that regard, Ana Lily Amirpour is a talented filmmaker. And that’s how I feel I can properly recommend The Bad Batch. It is an interesting, unique, and well made film… but that doesn’t necessarily translate to enjoyment and watchability. I’ll go back to what I wrote down in the dark screening room when I watched it, “It’s like Mad Max f*cked the Neon Demon.” If that description is enticing to you, you’ll likely enjoy The Bad Batch. The Bad Batch debuts in theaters on Friday, June 23rd.
THE BAD BATCH follows Arlen (Waterhouse) after she’s left in a Texas wasteland fenced off from civilization. While trying to navigate the unforgiving landscape, Arlen is captured by a savage band of cannibals led by the mysterious Miami Man (Momoa). With her life on the line, she makes her way to The Dream (Reeves). As she adjusts to life in ‘the bad batch’ Arlen discovers that being good or bad mostly depends on who’s standing next to you.
Starring Suki Waterhouse (PRIDE AND PREJUDICE AND ZOMBIES), Jason Momoa (JUSTICE LEAGUE, Game of Thrones), Giovani Ribisi (TED, Sneaky Pete), Keanu Reeves (JOHN WICK).
The Bad Batch Trailer #1 (2017) | Movieclips Trailers
The Bad Batch Trailer #2 (2017) | Movieclips Trailers