Director Lily Amirpour follows up her hit first film the vampire thriller A Girl Walks Home with The Bad Batch which screens in competition in Venice.
A dystopian sci-fi tale set in a Texas wasteland where society’s rejects have been exiled the film runs the gamut from cannibal flick to spaghetti Western but never approaches the level of her stylish debut.
Amirpour’s script is full of political comment and ironic wit and with the US presidential race in full swing it is hard not to see some implied swipes at presidential candidate Donald Trump and his plans to wall off the US Mexican border to keep out undesirable immigrants.
We first see our heroine Arlen played by former British supermodel Suki Waterhouse when she is dumped by military looking types into a nightmare wasteland for assorted misfits and immigrants who are not fit to be residing in the US as part of American society. These are the Bad Batch and Arlen is literally tattooed with the words Bad Batch to mark her as one of the unwanted. Waterhouse brings the right level of style and cool to the role which is really more about having the right look and attitude than much real acting.
Arlen is pushed out through a gate in a massive fence where a sign informs us that “Beyond this fence is no longer the territory of Texas. Hereafter no person within the territory beyond this fence is a resident of the United States of America or shall be acknowledged, recognized or governed by the laws and governing bodies therein. Good luck."
But the residents of this no-man’s land in the near future of Amirpour’s sci-fi nightmare vision have come up with their own form of dysfunctional society. The major groups are the cannibals and the drugged out Comfort society. Arlen first encounters the cannibals who appear in a golf-cart and whisk her off to their den where to manage to cut off several of her tasty limbs with a view to cooking them. Here we get a glimpse of the grindhouse aesthetics of Amirpour’s stylish nightmare vision. The film is lensed by Lyle Vincent who also shot her first film A Girl Walks Home Alone at Night and she has also brought along editor Alix O’Flinn and costume designer Natalie O’Brien who worked on her first film and it proves a wise choice as look and style are a major part of the film’s appeal.
Despite getting limbless Arlen manages to escape from the cannibals and is picked up in the desert by a mute hermit with a shopping cart played by Jim Carrey who takes her to the Comfort group who are more gentle than the cannibals and live in an LSD drug induced haze.
The film is grisly and stylish and has a soundtrack that should increase its overall appeal to young audiences. It makes many witty references to other films of its many mixed genres and lot’s of political irony on the American Dream that should win it further festival play. But overall the film fails to reach the satisfying level of her debut.
The Bad Batch (USA)
Directed by Ana Lily Amirpour
Cast: Suki Waterhouse, Jason Momoa, Keanu Reeves, Giovanni Ribisi, Jayda Fink, Yolonda Ross, Corey Roberts, Louie Lopez, Giovanni Ribisi, Jim Carrey, Diego Luna