The Bad Batch
Two weeks after Trey Edward Shults’ It Comes at Night crashed and burned at the box office, along comes another another technically confident, visually creative independent film by a fresh voice who doesn’t have much to say.
The new contender is Ana Lily Amirpour’s The Bad Batch, a dystopian genre mishmash chock full of unusual sights like a mobile DJ station shaped like a giant boom box and memorable juxtapositions, the most unshakeable of which puts Ace of Base’s “All That She Wants” to disturbing use.
Amirpour gave audiences similar eye candy and music video audition clips in her 2014 feature debut A Girl Walks Home Alone at Night, more commonly known as “the skateboarding Iranian female vampire movie.”
In her move from black and white to color, she crafts another iconic feminist image — that of one-armed Arlen (Suki Waterhouse) shuffling through the desert with a prosthetic limb, wearung a white tank top and yellow Daisy Dukes — and supports it with storytelling and dialogue as empty as that in her previous film.
The traces of a plot in The Bad Batch involve Arlen escaping the cannibals who took her limbs and finding security in the town of Comfort, run by a charismatic figure called The Dream (Keanu Reeves) who surrounds himself with gun-toting attractive young women in whom he plants his seeds.
Wandering beyond the settlement’s barriers, Arlen has an unexpected encounter with two scavengers that places preteen Honey (Jayda Fink) under her care and briefly gives Arlen’s life — and the film — some purpose before the young girl is repossessed by The Dream.
Meanwhile, Honey’s chiseled, tattooed father Miami Man (Jason Momoa) — a striking example of humankind in his own right — tries to find his lost daughter, a journey that inevitably overlaps with Arlen yet offers little insight into their minds beyond survival and a desire not to be alone.
In a world where those two qualities are of the utmost importance, focusing on them would seemingly be sufficient grounds for a compelling story, but filtered through Amirpour’s pen and her core cast’s limited acting skills, it’s far from attention-grabbing.
Further frustrating is her handling of the legitimately talented performers who wanted to work with her after A Girl Walks Home Alone at Night. In addition to a poorly utilized Reeves, Diego Luna and Giovanni Ribisi pop up in inconsequential cameos, and though an unrecognizable Jim Carrey at least gets to play a key role, his mute character is a sadly apt metaphor for The Bad Batch’s narrative value.
Grade: C. Rated R. Now playing at Grail Moviehouse