“The Bad Batch” Will Amaze Some And Frustrate Others





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Posted June 26, 2017 by

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With the release of her second film, “The Bad Batch”, Ana Lily Amirpour has certainly carved out a niche for herself as a writer/director. Her films are beautifully shot, heavily symbolic, and incredibly ambiguous with their narrative. “The Bad Batch” looks nothing like Amirpour’s first film, the black and white, Iranian Vampire film “A Girl Walks Home Alone at Night”, but its voice and tone are unmistakably hers. With long, establishing shots of a barren, desert landscape, Amirpour tells her dystopian, Western tale through arresting visuals and sparse, vague dialogue.

Arlen (Suki Waterhouse) has payed the punishment for her crimes and is released, as a member of the “Bad batch”, into a dry, sun-scorched wasteland to fend for herself. Soon after, she is taken prisoner by a cannibalistic group called “The Bridge”, who make a meal out of her right arm and leg. Arlen’s resolve is strong, though, and she escapes into the desert, on a skateboard (another of Amirpour’s calling cards).

Without food, water, or half of her appendages Arlen is soon knocking on death’s door and ready to give up. That is when a mute hermit (Jim Carrey) finds her and takes her to a settlement called “Comfort”. Comfort is a drug-fueled, rave kid camp lead by a strange prophet figure who calls himself “The Dream” (Keanu Reeves). Here, Arlen is provided with food, shelter, and working plumbing, but there is something inside of her that longs for the challenge of something else.

It seems like she may have found that something, when she finds the daughter of one of the cannibals (Jason Momoa) in the desert, and takes her back to Comfort with her. This does not set well with him, and he sets out to find his lost little girl at any cost. This sets off a chain of events, some random and some profound, that change Arlen’s view on herself and life.

I think it is safe to say that Ana Lily Amirpour is a wizard, when it comes to visuals and creating set designs and characters that make her films feel as if they were all a part of a universe that she has been creating, since she was a child watching films like “Mad Max” and “The Neverending Story”. Every nook and cranny of the world we explore in “The Bad Batch” is stunning, and helps the film grasp onto the viewer even when the central story might not.

The film’s lack of a straight forward narrative will frustrate many viewers, who like answers to their questions and get uneasy when there is a lack of dialogue. Amirpour doesn’t write talky characters that give expositions about themselves. She uses their surroundings, habits, and reactions to events to tell us who they are.

Waterhouse, Momoa, Reeves, and the rest of the cast are all excellent. Supplied with Amirpour’s quirky coolness, the characters, while mostly surface, are all interesting enough to adequately compliment the world of insanity they inhabit. People who enjoy films for their subtext and technical wonders will probably hail “The Bad Batch” as an underrated masterwork. Others will dismiss it as art house overkill. I lean more towards the former, and really enjoyed getting sucked back into Armipour’s imagination. This is not a perfect film, but it is a very good one and it has me very excited to see what Ana Lily Amirpour does next.




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