Written and directed by Ana Lily Amirpour | 118 min | On VOD
Iranian-American auteur Amirpour’s first feature was the dreamy, black-and-white vampire picture A Girl Walks Home Alone At Night, shot in California with her actors all speaking Persian. It was a stylish statement of intent from a Jarmusch-esque filmmaker, and its follow-up—though in English (with a little Spanish) and in colour—is no less an exercise in form. Its rambles and running time may stymie some, but I enjoyed this punky, desert-set dystopia.
Arlen (Suki Waterhouse) is an ex-con in this near-future land, one of the titular Bad Batch, persona non grata in civilized society. Out in the wastelands she encounters two separate societies, fellow Batchers who spend their days working out and eating anyone who interlopes.
This group includes Cuban tough-guy Miami Man (Jason Momoa) and his daughter, Honey (Jayda Fink). A little further into the desert is Comfort, where Arlen is less likely to become anyone’s dinner, but it’s run by a greasy dude named The Dream (Keanu Reeves, finally looking his age) more interested in growing things than meat. In between these camps we encounter a wordless wanderer named The Hermit, who apparently is played by Jim Carrey, though I struggle to believe it. (See the photo below.)
The direct antecedents here are the Mad Max pictures, though The Bad Batch wouldn’t ever be confused with an action movie. It’s a rambling indie with a comedic streak, more akin to Tank Girl or Repo Man or even Touch of Evil. It’s gory in places, and the second act could’ve used a little more focus, but it gets where its going—a story of the place where kindness and community overcomes incivility and opposition—with a fair bit of grace.