THE BAD BATCH is a weird little film by newcomer writer/director Ana Lily Amirpour. She was responsible for the becoming a cult classic gem that I have not seen, A Girl Walks Alone At Night. This film, critic wise, is going both ways. Some are calling it a boring overlong interesting mess, others are calling it a an independent modern masterpiece. Me? I’m somewhere in the middle, closer to the spectrum of masterpiece though then a mess. In fact, I actually thought The Bad Batch was pretty good. While the story was a little lacking, it is gorgeously shot and has a hell of an interesting premise with some good/weird performances. I mean, Jim Carrey is almost uncredited in this as a silent good-natured hermit, bringing one of his best performance since The Truman Show and Man on the Moon. How can you not like a movie like that?
If the trailer is somewhat confusing on what this is about, let me spell it out a little without ruining anything. Apparently, this takes place in the future, where if you are part of “The Bad Batch,” you are actually a prisoner, where you are taken to a gate on the edge of Texas, and are free to roam a land where the American law and way of life no longer applies. Are you are a land full of cannibals, criminals, and scary looking motherfuckers, and the one place of solace this scary desert un-topia has is a place called Comfort that is run by a head honcho named The Dream (played cool and collected by Keanu Reeves). How weird is this film? Well all the ladies that are in The Dream’s home are pregnant and are wearing t-shirts that says “I Have The Dream Inside Me.” Am I right?
Well anyway, this one girl gets sentenced to this place, and right away she is taken by cannibals who eat one of her arms and one of her legs. She still manages to escape and tries to find Comfort. Jason Mamoa also stars as a man who you don’t quite know who his allegiance lies with. Like I said, the film is really really gorgeously shot. Ms. Amirpour knows her way behind a camera and brings a beautiful landscape to an otherwise haunting and scary open prison system.
I guess the weirdness of this film stuck with me throughout the entire runtime because I was never bored and my eyes were always glued to the screen wondering what was going to happen next. I loved how this world was explained to the audience not by telling us what was going on but by showing us. That’s what I always admire in a film, when it shows and not tells. It’s possible that the weirdness was too good for it’s own good because if a couple of things were tweaked this could’ve been a masterpiece and one of the year’s best films. The story should’ve been tweaked a couple of times (even though I did like the ending). Some of the characters decisions didn’t make much sense when clearly there were plenty of other options (hard to explain without getting into spoilers). I also loved Keanu Reeves as a kind of savior/bad guy and wish they would’ve developed his character a bit more.
And the film does have that main problem: character development. We don’t know much about the main girl, named Arlen, and only find out bits and pieces with nothing big enough or the glue not strong enough to put together. Same goes with Jason Mamoa’s character known only as Miami Man because of the tattoo across his chest. But the best character I really wanted to get to know was Jim Carrey’s Hermit character. Arguably one of Carrey’s best performances he doesn’t say one word, just a desert wanderer that mostly keeps to himself except for when people are in trouble. I could’ve watched a whole movie on just that character alone, and is the reason why I like the movie more than I should.
Ugh, the more I think about the movie the more of a recommendation I want to give it. As of right now, I think the movie borders on good/great territory, but far from a masterpiece and no where near the mess that people think it is. This is definitely a film though that I’d like to revisit at a time and maybe see something new in it that I didn’t catch the first time. Anyway, if you like weird films, or anything avant garde, this is totally the film for you. But if you are a modern audience participant, this film will most likely confuse the shit out of you and you will hate it’s guts. I liked it and would like to study it some more.