The Bad Batch

Year: 2016
Production Co: Human Stew Factory
Director: Ana Lily Amirpour
Writer: Ana Lily Amirpour
Cast: Suki Waterhouse, Jason Momoa, Keanu Reeves, Jim Carrey, Giovanni Ribisi

Regardless of the quality of either this film or Ana Lily Armirpour's debut A Girl Walks Home Alone At Night, there's one thing that's beyond debate – she's masterful at capturing the colours, textures and feel of an evocative location.

The one in this film isn't terribly original – you've seen it done everywhere from Mad Max on down – but she designs, wrangles and shoots it with a very assured hand.

It's either the near future or an alternate present where people are exiled from the United State through a huge fence at the border (a Trump analogy?) into the desert wasteland to fend for themselves. It's never explained if they carry some sort of pathogen or if some trumped up juducial process simply deems them undesireable, but they become the Bad Batch of the title, left to fend for themselves or die trying.

We meet Arlen (Suki Waterhouse) when she's processed and sent through the gate with nothing but her smiley face cutoff shorts and skateboard to her name. Before long she's pursued and captured by two figures in an electric golf cart, waking up later to discover to her horror that while she's been drugged they've cut off her arm and leg for food.

Savagery and cannibalism now rule the land Arlen's found herself in, and the only way she can save herself is by covering herself with her own faeces so they don't want to eat the rest of her. When her captor unlocks her to wash her down she strikes, killing the woman and escaping by dragging herself into the desert on her skateboard.

A scruffy hermit (Jim Carrey, whom I didn't recognised the entire way through, thinking it was Iggy Pop or Tom Waits) picks her up and carries her to Comfort, a township that contains the closest thing to peace and prosperity in the land.

They care for Arlen, giving her a prosthetic leg, food and shelter, and she finds herself in a home of sorts. Months later, while scavenging for food and scraps at a long abandoned rubbish dump, she comes across a woman and child. Realising they're cannibals like the ones who first captured her, Arlen shoots the woman, taking the child with her back to Comfort.

But she's picked on the wrong family. The fearsome Miami Man (Jason Momoa) was the woman's husband and father to his now-missing daughter, and when the hermit tells Miami Man where she's been taken, he goes on the warpath to get his child back.

The little girl, meanwhile, has been taken in by the cult leader-like overlord of Comfort, The Dream (Keanu Reeves), who lives in luxury with his many wives. When Arlen and Miami Man find each other again, she realises she might actually be with the bad guys, setting herself to rescuing the little girl and reuniting the family.

Like Amirpour's first effort it's hard to categorise, seeming to be cobbled together from a large number of influences and interests. It's got everything from post apocalyptic sci-fi to romantic fable, and because of her keen eye for her locations and sets Amirpour manages several visually arresting moments. The story's nothing new or terribly interesting though, which gives all the design and aesthetic a very flimsy spine to hang on.

Special mention goes however to Jason Momoa, who looks like (and can act like) a major movie star, but who seems to have toiled in straight to VOD B movies for the longest time waiting for his break. After Aquaman he'll presumably be far too expensive for this kind of thing, but up until now he's played some really interesting and different roles (sometimes in dreadful movies) that show quite a range.

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