James Rosario is a writer, filmmaker, and musician based in the Asheville, NC area. His record label, Bigger Boat Records, releases...
The Bad Batch (2017)
Directed by Ana Lily Amirpour
Reviewed by James Rosario on June 20, 2017
Ana Lily Amirpour’s The Bad Batch suffers from the “great premise, now where’s the story?” syndrome. I’m on board with the dystopian desert inhabited by muscle-freak cannibals and skateboarding weirdos, but I’m hard-pressed to figure out just what the film is beyond that. I’m not trying to pan it—I didn’t hate watching it—I simply found myself waiting nearly two hours for a story that never fully materialized.
In an unspecified future, those deemed unworthy to exist in civilized society are labeled as “the Bad Batch,” and sent to live in a cordoned off section of Texas. There, they fend for themselves in an Escape from New York (1981) meets The Hills Have Eyes (1977)—by way of any given Mad Max film (take your pick) and Alex Cox’s anarchic western Straight to Hell (1987)—wasteland full of all manner of strange inhabitants. The two main factions seem to be an encampment of weightlifting cannibals, and Comfort, a relatively civilized and fortified city run by a mysterious figure known as the Dream (Keanu Reeves doing his best Pablo Escobar impression).
Arlen (Suki Waterhouse), the newest resident of this wild territory, is quickly captured by the cannibals who promptly saw off a few of her limbs and throw them on the grill. Eventually, she escapes and makes her way to Comfort (with the aid of a nearly unrecognizable Jim Carrey) where she soon finds herself dissatisfied. Situations contrive themselves, leading to a constantly shirtless Jason Momoa enlisting Arlen to help find his missing daughter, fall in love, and consider changing his cannibal ways. I think anyway, I’m not sure if that’s what happens. Seriously, I don’t know.
There’s a lot of possibilities worked in to that premise, but unfortunately they’re vastly underutilized. All of this could have been much more forgivable if not for the bloated running time. At 115 minutes, The Bad Batch is easily 30 minutes too long. At numerous points in the film, I found myself thinking, “How long can this possibly be?” Thankfully, the dialogue in these overextended scenes is kept to a minimum. At one point, I wondered if everyone in the film was mute, if that was a plot element that I had missed. The lack of spoken words helps the film, but not in an intentional way. When the actors speak, the whole thing just gets worse.
On the other hand, The Bad Batch is nice to look at. The color and camera movements are on point. It’s well made, if not well written or acted. As I said, if Amirpour could have kept that run time down, we might have had ourselves a cool little picture. Unfortunately, it’s kind of a bore.
I have no doubt the film will find its niche, and its relatively low budget will probably insure that it’s at least not a total flop. I get what the film was going for, I just wish it had gotten all the way there.
The Bad Batch opens Friday, June 23, 2017 at the Grail Moviehouse.
For more film reviews, plus record reviews, podcasts, and more, please vist THE DAILY ORCA.