Title: The Bad Batch
Director: Ana Lily Amirpour
Starring: Suki Waterhouse, Jason Momoa, Keanu Reeves, Jim Carrey, Yolonda Ross, Giovanni Ribisi, Jayda Fink, Diego Luna, Cory Roberts, E.R. Ruiz
Plot: In the near future criminals and other society rejects are dumped in a fenced off area of desert wasteland outside of the Texas. The latest addition to this community is Arlen (Waterhouse) who soon finds herself having to traverse the landscape of scavengers, cannibals and cultists if she is going to survive this dangerous and lawless world.
Review: Following on from the critically adored “A Girl Walks Home Alone At Night” director Ana Lily Amirpour chooses to follow it up here with this sun soaked dose of dystopia while at the same time seemingly channelling the cinema outlaws Harmony Korine and Greg Araki to craft a fiercly unique vision which will likely prove too abstract for the mainstream movie goer but there is unquestionably something here.
Bringing to mind Richard Kelly’s fiercely diversive “Southland Tales” here Amirpour clearly sets out with a vision for her sophomore effort, though at the same time its one which will either enthral or bore you depending on your own opinion of the film the former of which I certainly found myself in even if at times its hard to actually know what is supposed to be happening other than a whole lot of cannibalism and desert wandering and this of course makes it the sort of film as a critic you kind of dread encountering. I mean how are you supposed to write about nothing? Still as I sit here writing this two days after I first watched it this is a film which continues to run through my head so that I feel compelled to get something down about it.
Opening to Arlen being dumped into this world we are mere moments into the film before she is set upon by one of the resident cannibals who quickly relieve her of one of her arms and a leg before she sets out to escape across the desert on a skateboard reminiscent in a scene reminiscent of the opening of “There Will Be Blood” whose record of no dialogue for the first 14.5 minutes this film smashes by none of the characters actually talking till we are 30 mins in. Its also during this sequence that we are introduced to the Hermit played throughout the film in complete silence by Jim Carrey just one of a series of interesting casting choices which also sees Keanu Reeves showing up as the cult-like leader of the town Comfort known only as “The Dream” who runs a sideline in pot with his harem of pregnant ladies.
Across the desert landscape we encounter a number of settlements which has sprung up with Amirpour following in the footsteps of George Miller as the residents have constructed shanty towns out of aeroplane parts and broken down trailers, creating a new society for themselves and one seemingly styled by the same costume department Harmony Korine uses from Arlen’s winking booty shorts to Jason Momoa’s “Miami Man” chest tattoo which serves like an alt-culture name tag, though why she went with that name like so much of the film is a complete mystery.
Arlen though is quick to adapt to this world as the film skips forward six month once she arrives in comfort to were has she gained a prosthetic leg and spend her time wandering the wasteland which is were the main story of sorts begins when she picks up the Miami Man’s daughter Honey (Fink) after killing her cannibal mother. From here though its really a lot of wandering as Miami Man tries to find his now missing daughter before further wandering with Arlen when Honey gets picked up by Keanu Reeve’s cult leader “The Dream” during an acid infused rave sequence.
Miami Man on the other hand is a slightly more complex character as Momoa spend the film wandering around shirtless and looking like he was carved out of wood, a cold warrior hardened by the enviroment around him, who feels nothing about keeping a woman chained up in his yard to use for food, inbetween painting detailed paintings of his daughter, though its a connection more confirmed in the wikipedia plot summery than in the film, were she comes across like a girl from his camp. He however like the other characters is a fascinating to watch on screen with Amirpour only giving us small hints of details about these characters and leaving us as the audience to figure things out, which while certainly a bold choice is also the kind of thing which put off audience not wanting to sit through something so abstract.
Now if any of this is sounding like a confusing mess then you probably would be right and yet its a fascinating mess which Amirpour allows you to get lost in using minimalistic dialogue and instead attention grabbing visuals to tell her story if you can even really call it that. Instead what it often feels like is more of a snapshot of these characters lives as we follow them like ghosts in this world and much like with “Ghost World” we are just along for the ride as events play out acting more like the observers than actually being part of this world. Of course if David Lynch can get away with telling a story on the latest season of Twin Peaks over 18 episode when he really only needed four, then why can't we enjoy a visually arresting and minimalist desert romp? Yes this really isn’t going to be for everyone and already I can see this film ending up like “Southland Tales” as its as hated as its adored.