- Gareth Crook
The Bad Batch (2016)
I remember watching a trailer for this a few years back and thinking it looked interesting, but then it kept getting pushed to the bottom of the watch list. It does sound interesting, a bunch of socially undesirable misfits are banished to a fenced out wasteland outside of Texas to fend for themselves in a lawless desert. It’s a rough start as Arlene (Suki Waterhouse) finds out what she’s up against within hours of being processed an abandoned. It survival of the fittest. The fittest being iron pumping Speedo wearing crazies, like Jason Momoa. If that’s not you. You are food. That’s right, it’s a sun-baked desert, nothing grows, pretty much the only food is people! Within the opening scenes Arlene is captured, chained and loses two limbs, it’s pretty brutal. She seems remarkably calm considering, but the we don’t know what she’s done to get here, nothing good that’s for sure and it’s not long before Arlene proves she’s not to be fucked with. It’s unconventionally stylish and has lots of fun with the wide open vistas. It’s just as well, as it’s pretty light on substance. After escaping the clutches of the cannibals, Arlene finds some kind of safety with a community that although isn’t eating each other, is still pretty depressing. The town called Comfort is walled off by shipping containers and resembles something between a long forgotten town that time forgot and a scrapyard. A bit Mad Max, but no where near as cool. In fact that’s pretty much the aesthetic of the entire film, sand and rust. Dialogue is kept to a minimum, the entire script can’t have been more than half a dozen pages. This is probably for the best, none of these characters are especially well fleshed out. Instead we get lots of windswept long held shots and a knowingly cool soundtrack of 80s synth pop and afrobeat. We finally get some sense of purpose when Arlene comes across a former tormentor and exacts revenge. Only to find herself becoming custodian of a young child in the process. The problem is the child’s father is Jason Mamao’s... or Miami Man as he’s known via the tattoo across his chest... see, little substance. So we have a revenge plot rescue mission mash up. That is once the brief interlude of a Burning Man style night time rave occurs, that introduces none other than Keanu Reeves, the king of zero substance! He’s apparently the self appointed leader of Comfort, spouting some messianic nonsense about ‘The Dream’ whilst acid is dropped and the beats soundtrack what’s now apparently a choice subculture rather than a cluster of ‘Bad Batch’ criminals. Miami Man’s kid (Honey) gets lost in the rave as Arlene trips out in the twilight and finds herself taken in by The Dream (Reeves), that’s right, he’s called The Dream, I shit you not. Arlene’s desert trip reminds me of Homer’s spiritual awaking with Johnny Cash the talking coyote, with its “Wow coool” pronouncements and psychedelic distortions. Instead of the Man in Black through, she bumps into Miami Man and the two become odd bedfellows looking for the child. That is until she winds up back at Comfort in the aftermath of the party. It’s a bit, and then, and then, and then. A series of slow often dull vignettes that really struggle to held my attention. It’s all a bit pointless, with as much attention paid to Arlene’s hot pants as anything else. Even putting them on the poster. Before I forget, Jim Carrey stars too! As a mute hermit loner that roams the territory with a shopping cart. The closest thing to any sort of remaining humanity, he’s criminally underused. As we mercifully reach the finale, we find the cult of Keanu in a high tower of opulence. A harem of women, running water, ice, electricity and a roaring trade in class a drugs, but very little happens. In fact sod all really happens for 2 hours and as it limps to a close the only positive I can think of is a few good needle drops. Don’t bother watching this. Instead watch A Girl Walks Home Alone at Night from the same director, an infinitely better film.