Director: Ana Lily Amirpour
Starring: Suki Waterhouse, Jason Mamoa, Keanu Reeves, Jim Carrey
Review Author: Tony
Rating: 2.75/5 cans of warm beer
Following on from the critically-celebrated A Girl Walks Home Alone One Night, many have been waiting in anticipation for Ana Lily Armipour’s next outing in the director’s chair. Her latest offering, The Bad Batch, is certainly a step in a different direction although it retains much of her style, vigor, and undeniable coolness.
The premise of the Bad Batch is a dystopian future where The United States dumps it’s criminals and undesirables into the desert just outside Texas as a form of banishment. Left with only a hamburger, jug of water and a number tattooed on the back of their neck, the ostracized are left to fend for themselves. The film opens with Arlen becoming the latest outcast, not that she seems too bothered about it as she waltzes around without a care in the world. Unfortunately, the world comes knocking when she’s captured by a cannibalistic tribe of bodybuilders. Arlene’s predicament quite literally costs her an arm and a leg.
While it sounds like I’ve run into spoiler territory, everything I just described takes place within the first fifteen minutes of the movie. It’s a fantastic opening that blends gore, consequence, and pure lunacy. Unfortunately, this premise is dropped early on and the film wanders off into a dazed stupor mumbling ideas with no focus on truly expanding them. There is a clear social commentary on how Trump’s vision for American society is to simply displace the unwanted, criminals and immigrants although it’s never truly fleshed out.
The settlement Arlen comes upon is Comfort, a community of fellow outcasts or “Bad Batch” under the control of the Jim Jones esque cult leader, The Dream, played amusingly by a pornstache wearing Keanu Reeves. This act becomes aimless as it feels like a scene out of the Burning Man festival as side characters spout nonsense and we are forced on an unasked for psychedelic trip. Clocking in at an hour and fifty-five minutes, The Bad Batch is just too long in the tooth and really makes you feel every second of its run time.
Despite its shortcomings, the Bad Batch isn’t without merit. The film looks fantastic as Armipour infuses her visual flair and oddball sensibilities into a very pretty film. The soundtrack is a great mix of classic pop hits and trippy synth as a neat callback to the film’s clear 80’s, dystopian, future vibe. Mamoa steals the show as the cannibal behemoth, Miami Man along with an unrecognizable Jim Carrey who doesn’t mutter a word of dialogue. Suki Waterhouse and Keanu Reeves do an amicable job of elevating some rather stilted and cringy dialogue although the script lets them down.
The Bad Batch feels more like a misstep for Armipour than a downright failure. It’s an ambitious film that loses its footing and struggles to hop to the finish line. There are plenty of memorable moments to cement Armipour as one of the most exciting up and coming filmmakers and I for one am very excited to see what she comes up with next.