DIRECTOR: Ana Lily Amirpour
WRITER: Ana Lily Amirpour
Louie Lopez Jr.
When Arlen leaves the fenced-off world where civilization lives. She wanders into the Texas wasteland where there is no law or government. In the unforgiving landscapes, she is captured by a band of savage cannibals who are using their fellow travelers for food. With her life on the line, Arlen decides to travel the wasteland in search of the charismatic man known as The Dream.
I still remember back in September of 2016 when The Bad Batch was unveiled at the Venice and Toronto Film Festivals. The word of mouth from the critics who witnessed it, was pretty mixed, to say the least, but what followed from that was an excitement and anticipation. An apocalyptic cannibal film from the director of the highly beloved A Girl Walks Home Alone At Night. I was extremely excited to see what director Ana Lily Amirpour would turn out for her second feature film.
Going into The Bad Batch, I was immediately taken aback by how beautiful this film looked. The movie is one of the most gorgeous films I've seen all year. Every single shot of the film felt like it was framed to be able to be used as a snippet or piece of promotion for the movie. The huge wide desert landscapes, the cannibal villages, the rave sequence, the night time desert shots, The Dream's mansion. Every single scene in this film felt like it was something to behold.
That is sadly where it ends for me with The Bad Batch. While the movie is full of style and every scene has something to admire about it. That's all it was for me. The film is all style and very little substance. While I enjoyed the hell out of The Neon Demon. I think The Bad Batch will draw similar comparisons to that movie. Both filmmakers are talented and have such a unique visual style and eye, that it may actually be the only thing that saves these movies as they have very little story at the core of both films.
The Bad Batch moves from one set-piece to another without ever really feeling like there is much of a story there. There feels like there is no weight or heft. It doesn't feel like it has anything really important to say. Minus the theme of immigration that seems to be used as an important character reveal. I didn't find much else here. The film feels ultimately shallow. In saying that, there may have been something deeper here that I just didn't pick up on. Give it a few years and critics will be writing about how important this film is and make me appear brain-dead.
Another element of the movie that I really enjoyed was the soundtrack for the movie. The soundtrack features a mixture of the eighties and nineties that is thrown together with heavy club-ready new wave and house. It is so perfectly matched to the visuals within the film that it almost had this sort of euphoric effect on me. It was almost like a drug. The rave scene and Arlen's drug-trip in the desert are two of the scenes that use both music and cinematography and visuals so expertly.
While some horror fans might find the lack of gore in The Bad Batch disappointing. I still think that the film is shot in a way that feels like less is more. The violent scenes are never once gratuitous. I think while the movie has moments that do lend itself to the horror genre, this may feel more like a drama or a romance which is set among an apocalyptic landscape with unsavory characters more than a flatout scary, bloody or intense horror film. This is pretty light on the horror elements.
When it comes to the acting in The Bad Batch, I think the movie is a little all over the place for me. Suki Waterhouse is just gorgeous to watch on screen. I think that Arlen was actually the most sympathetic character in the movie. She is given the most to do emotionally and if The Bad Batch is anything to go off, she'll be a big star who will headline tentpole films one day. I wouldn't be surprised if Michael Bay comes after her for a Transformers film or something down the line. She carries this film.
Lastly, the supporting cast is where the movie feels a little hit and miss for me. Jason Momoa puts on an accent and it feels completely distracting at times. However, he's easy on the eyes, so as a leading man and cannibal, he does the role justice. Keanu Reeves is taking all these weird indie roles of late and I admire the direction. Just in The Bad Batch, he's not good at all. I found his role to be laughably bad here. Finally, we have Jim Carrey as 'The Hermit'. I had no idea it was him until I started writing this review after seeing the film. So under all that beard and costume, it was Jim Carrey all along. I was actually shocked.
DEATH TOLL: 4
BLOOD AND GORE:
- A woman's leg and arm are sawn off with a hacksaw.
- A girl rubs herself in her own excrement.
- A woman smashes another woman's head in with rebar.
- A human leg is seen being cooked.
- A man is shot in the chest.
- We see a man's hand being cut off.
- A man is hit in the leg with a knife.
- A man is hit in the back with a meat cleaver.
- A woman's neck is snapped.
- A woman is shot in the head.
- Crows are seen pecking a dead woman's face.
- We see a man carving up human body parts and cooking them.
The Bad Batch is a movie that feels like style over substance. There is very little plot to be found here. At almost two hours, it feels very long. At times, the movie feels like it could have used a lot of editing to cut the film down. There feels like there is a lot of fat that could be trimmed. Where the movie lacks story, it makes up for sheer gorgeous cinematography and visuals. It also has a great soundtrack and score. Suki Waterhouse carries this film. Worth a watch but don't expect anything with depth.