By Maxwell Asper
VANCOUVER – The Bad Batch is nascent director Ana Lily Amirpour’s second attempt at directing a full-length feature film, building on 2014’s critically praised, A Girl Walks Home Alone at Night. In Amirpour’s second outing, she successfully creates intrigue around an interesting dystopian plot, but The Bad Batch ultimately fails to follow through with delivering anything more tangible or substantial. The drama-thriller follows Arlen, a twenty-something wandering though a post-apocalyptic wasteland. Throughout her journey, our protagonist battles with cannibals, cults and her own ideals of what makes someone ‘bad.’ Hollywood up-and-comer Suki Waterhouse leads as Arlen, with Jason Momoa, Keanu Reeves, and Jim Carrey turning in interesting performances of their own.
At the outset of the film, there is brief dialogue exchanged that suggests Arlen is a criminal, and as punishment, has become part of “the Bad Batch.” Members of the Bad Batch are tattooed with the letters ‘BB,’ followed by a unique number before being banished to the wastelands that exist outside some sort of more organized society. As the story illustrates, certain factions have manifested themselves within the wastelands—of them, audiences are introduced to an organized colony of cannibals and a drug-fueled rave cult. Arlen encounters the former at the outset of the movie in what is quite a gory, brutal moment, escaping only after losing a couple limbs. With this scene, the film sets up to be quite the thriller but, unfortunately, fails to ever really reach the same level of intensity again. This seems to be a symptom of the movie’s overall issue of straddling too many genres, failing to delve into any of them in a substantial way. There is some decent action and some decent emotional beats, but overall the movie makes for a pretty anticlimactic story.
Waterhouse turns in an inspired performance, hobbling through the movie on a mechanical leg, looking eternally lost in a real life hell. The young actress meshes well with Jason Momoa on screen, who also turns in a solid performance playing a forever-shirtless ex-gangster-turned-cannibal with a heart of gold attempting to rescue his daughter.
Keanu Reeves and Jim Carrey seem to have been miscast in their roles, but neither are the biggest problems on screen. The former sports an interesting look and Elvis-like demeanor, but bores with lifeless diction confused for intensity, and the latter is a mostly failed attempt to inject humor into an otherwise somber film. Reeves and Carrey both seem like unnecessary casting decisions.
Perhaps the film’s best aspect is its trippy post-apocalyptic visuals, wardrobe and set pieces, which all blend nicely to create an electro-punk wasteland. Although definitely borrowing some style tips from Mad Max, the movie succeeds in creating an original atmosphere. Using music from electronic duo Darkside to score such a landscape is a decision that pays offs for Amirpour.
The Bad Batch delivers when it comes to providing an original take on the trendy post-apocalyptic genre, but the film’s plot is bland and the movie opens with its greatest trick. It might have been a better viewing experience had it not climaxed in the first scene, leaving the rest of the movie to try and fail to live up to the its own expectations, and while Momoa and Waterhouse turn in decent performances, the film’s acting isn’t anything to get too excited for. The movie has some action, and some emotional depth, but don’t be too disappointed if you miss this batch of film.
The Bad Batch is in theaters now.jason moma, jim carrey, keanu reeves, suki waterhouse