The Bad Batch (2016)

  • Time: 115 min
  • Genre: Romance | Sci-Fi
  • Director: Ana Lily Amirpour
  • Cast: Suki Waterhouse, Jason Momoa, Keanu Reeves


A dystopian love story in a Texas wasteland and set in a community of cannibals.

2 reviews

  • If writer-director Ana Lily Amirpour’s impressive directorial debut, A Girl Walks Home Alone at Night, was pitched as “the first Iranian vampire western,” then her no less striking sophomore feature, The Bad Batch, can be likened to a grindhouse cannibal western. Mixing elements of the Mad Max series, The Texas Chainsaw Massacre, and Alejandro Jodorowsky’s El Topo, The Bad Batch confirms Amirpour as an auteur with a knack for finding fresh new angles in genres generally categorised as low-rent or exploitative and infusing them with political and feminist touches.

    The Bad Batch is set in a dystopian wasteland where undesirables are exiled from America and left to fend for themselves. Arlen (Suki Waterhouse) is just one of the many considered to be part of the Bad Batch, and it doesn’t take very long to discover what lies beyond the U.S. border. Arlen is taken captive by member of the Bridge, a gang of cannibals who rescue her from the scorching heat only to chain her up and saw off an arm and a leg. The plucky Arlen manages to escape on a skateboard and is barely conscious when she’s picked up by a mute hermit (an almost unrecognisable Jim Carrey), who drops her off in the makeshift town of Comfort, whose citizens are led by a long-haired, mustachioed leader The Dream (Keanu Reeves) who encourages them to “follow the Dream” and have “the Dream inside you.”

    Five months pass. Arlen is now up and about with a new prosthetic leg, but she hasn’t exactly settled in Comfort. She doesn’t help matters by wandering around the outskirts of Comfort where she encounters one of her former captors, whom she shoots dead. Model Waterhouse has been building up her resume with small roles in Love, Rosie, Insurgent, and Pride and Prejudice and Zombies; here, she proves herself a compelling presence and, though she still has a long way to go as far as her acting is concerned, she sells the moment when Arlen’s anger gives way to shock at having pulled the trigger.

    The second half of the film pairs her with Jason Momoa’s Miami Man, a hulking Cuban cannibal searching for his daughter Honey (Jayda Fink), who followed Arlen back to Comfort and was secretly taken in by The Dream. Arlen and Miami Man forge a testy bond as he enlists her help by threatening to kill her if she doesn’t succeed in returning Honey back to him.

    The Bad Batch abounds in remarkable compositions, amongst them a shot of the newly dismembered Arlen lying on the sand during the night, the acid-fuelled first meeting between Arlen and Miami Man, the neon colours that dominate one of the raves in Comfort, even the final image of three figures surrounded by barren land as far as the eye can see. Amirpour directs with a confident hand, depicting a society that’s not too dissimilar from our own. However, Amirpour has a tendency to let scenes run for far longer than they should. A scene with Miami Man sketching the hermit is already unnecessary, yet Amirpour lets the scene go on for the length of time it takes Miami Man to do the drawing. Similarly, a tense showdown between Miami Man and an equally brawny figure is nearly undone by too long pauses between exchanges.

    Nevertheless, The Bad Batch is most definitely worth a look and a listen. The soundtrack features a handful of unexpected song choices such as Ace of Base’s “All That She Wants” alongside tracks from Darkside, Die Antwoord, Black Light Smoke, and Federale, a seven-piece ensemble whose works are often compared to Ennio Morricone.

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  • “Strange, isn’t it? Here we are in the darkest corner of this earth, and we’re afraid of our own kind.”

    You can say “The bad batch” is an exceptional and eccentric movie. It impressed me the first 20 minutes. An apocalyptic and insane society, somewhere in a desert on the American continent, where unwanted individuals are being dropped. Are you a criminal, an illegal or an asocial person, you’ll get a distinctive tattoo and a hamburger, and you’ll be left behind in the scorching heat in this no-man’s land. That’s what happened to Arlen (Suki Waterhouse). First of all, she wanders around carefree and careless, until she’s snatched by “Mad Max” -like desert dwellers. Not much later, she loses an arm and a leg. She seems to have fallen in the hands of a gang of unscrupulous cannibals, who needed some fresh meat for their barbecue. In addition to their love for human flesh, they are also avid bodybuilders. Does this already sound absurd enough? Wait, there’s more.

    As an escape tool, Arlen has this brilliant idea of lubricating herself with excrement’s (probably making her own flesh distasteful), then she knocks down her guard and escapes into the desert with the help of a skateboard. There she’s found by a crazy looking hobo who aimlessly pushes a shopping cart (maybe you’ll recognize Jim Carey). And in that way, Arlen ends up in a commune called “Comfort”. A community filled with normal eating inhabitants, who aren’t so normal after all and who follow some sort of leader who repeatedly talks to them about “The Dream”. He feeds them psychedelic tablets and he’s surrounded by a harem of pregnant women who are armed with automatic guns. What you’ll see next is a revenge film that slowly evolves into a lunatic, romantic story.

    Frankly, those first 20 minutes were hypnotic and fascinating. A practically dialogue-free spectacle, full of energy and artfulness with images, silence and a soundtrack which are perfectly complementary. The amputations are horribly realistic. The whole situation is disturbing on the one hand. But on the other hand, it’s kind of absurd and comical. A futuristic created environment. A fantasy created in a film, but nevertheless it’s not unthinkable that such isolation could exist sometime. An appropriate method of removing those who don’t fit into a future society adequately Unfortunately, this creative level couldn’t be detained and it became a bit too psychedelic and laughable. Even though Keanu Revees surprised me with his role as a heavily mustached cult leader. He looked like Nicolas Cage while playing in “Arsenal” where he had a similar appearance.

    The moment Arlen starts strolling through the desert hallucinating and completely drugged, while watching a beautiful galactic panorama and afterwards pleased she didn’t arrive in Mexico (looked like she walked quite some distance), the innovative and unique character makes room for something less fascinating. I realize Arlen fights an inner struggle while weighing both worlds. And then there’s also the influence and appearance of Miami Man (Jason “Conan the barbarian” Momoa). An impressive personality causing Arlen to feel something you can call romantic. I also wondered where the “Follow the dream” leader could find the right material to build such a luxurious home. Even a water supply is provided for the indoor pool. I doubt they found all this on the dump.

    Yet, this was more than successful film to me. And not because of the brutal aggressiveness or the repulsive habits. Perhaps I’m more enthusiastic about the “exploitation” part it all began with. And maybe I thought the psychedelic, romantic part wasn’t that great. But how inventive can you be to provide a soundtrack including Ace of Base, Culture Club and Die Antwoord? Highly recommended, if you are open minded at least. And I bet you’ll feel sorry for the little Honey (Jayda Fink).

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