The Bad Batch, written and directed by Ana Lily Amirpour, is… well to be blunt, it’s bad. The film tries desperately to seem edgy and different. It fills scenes with quirky looking/acting people, and it has scenes filled with things that look like their trying desperately to be odd. That’s all it seems to think it needs to make something attention grabbing, but it becomes apparent very early on that the film lacks any actual substance and anything actually interesting. This is going to be one of those reviews I hate to write because it isn’t going to be a kind one.
Set in a dystopian future where unwanted people are labelled ‘Bad Batch’ and sent to an unforgiveable dessert where cannibalism and the discarded oddities of life rule the land. Arlen – played by Suki Waterhouse – fends for herself, until she meets Miami Man – played by Jason Momoa – who forces Arlen to get his daughter back. Too be honest, I’ve been overly kind with this plot synopsis as the film really is about nothing; it just plods along from scene to scene without any meaningful purpose.
The initial impression I got when watching this film was that someone got really high while at Burning Man, had way too much money and some great connections, and decided that the screenplay idea they had, could be done utilising some of the craziness of the event. Unfortunately, what they didn’t realise was that their idea for a story had to have an actual story and purpose and things to fill 2 hours. Otherwise what you end up is… The Bad Batch.
The only positive that I could gleam from watching this film was that it sometimes had some interesting imagery. Imagery that every so often catches the eye and causes you to think: ‘Huh, that’s kinda interesting’. But a lot of the time it felt forced; it really felt like the film was trying hard to seem out there – to seem odd. Pointing the camera at people and things that look out of the box and hoping it’ll make your film seem visually unique and enticing is fine if you actually have things worth having the camera on. The Bad Batch seemed to run out of things fast, which meant the only morsel of compelling content for the film faded into the background.
Beyond that the film has nothing to offer. The mantra of this film seemed to be: ‘Let’s point the camera at things that catch the eye immediately and then the image will do the rest of the work’. Characters who look physically interesting or quirky or do weird, terrible things, have to be more than just visually attracting. There needs to be some actual substance to them; something that makes you want to follow them along on their journey. You might be tricked into thinking that because they have a visual presence that makes them stand out, that they then must hold within them a really intriguing, layered character, but that is sadly never the case. Each and every character is an empty shell – pretty on the outside and hollow on the inside.
Talented actors are completely wasted. Actors like Jason Momoa who is a charisma producing machine, but in The Bad Batch he is a silent, brooding person who quietly stares at things for way too long. Also, neither the actor or the character are helped by the fact that they spend the majority of their screen time with the films attempt at a lead character, Arlen. The actress is seemingly incapable of producing a convincing emotion. She stares blankly at everything and everyone, and you are literally not given a single reason to care about her. By the end of the film, she was as much a mystery to me as when she showed up in the first scene. Other than her name, I can’t think of one defining quality that she has. She exists in the film and that’s pretty much it. I suppose she wasn’t helped by the noticeably bad dialogue (which I’ll touch upon in more detail in a moment).
But the film continues its wastefulness by completely underusing/misusing some genuine talent. Giovanni Ribisi was seemingly left with no direction other than be a crazy person – nothing becomes of his “character”. Keanu Reeves also falls victim to the terrible dialogue. He spends the film struggling through it and again, nothing of note becomes of his character. Diego Luna is there but doesn’t do anything except dance. But perhaps the greatest sin of the film is that it has the always magnetic, Jim Carrey and… he’s a silent character who wanders around with a shopping cart. A man who when put on-screen, always becomes the natural focal point and this film can’t even take advantage of his talents.
None of these actors or characters are then helped by the fact that they are given dialogue that is at all times a struggle to listen to or take seriously. Dialogue seems like it’s supposed to be edgy or covered in deeper meanings, but it all just feels like someone trying really hard to sound like those qualities but not understanding how to write that way convincingly. It went from being uncomfortable to listen to, just flat-out comical by the end.
I have to wonder: Who was the person on this film (a producer, the director, maybe a writer) who was friends with all these actors or had some favours they could call in, to then assemble a pretty great cast like this? A lot of filmmakers would be thrilled if they could get a cast like this for their small film. But in the Bad Batch it wastes them, like it wastes pretty much all the opportunities it seemingly had.
Beyond the mirage that are the “characters” the film fails to find a plot to drive it. I wasn’t lying, when I said that I was being generous during the plot synopsis. This film had one or two interesting elements that it could have explored. The place in which the ‘Bad Batch’ are sent too, or the state of the world that now has it dealing with non-contributors to society in this way. There were opportunities but none were taken. The film relies on a plot that you do not care about and does not ever get interesting.
So then when you take all those failings that now dominate the experience, you get a film that is never able to elicit any actual positive or worthy emotional response from you; they are robbed of the chance of being stimulating, by a film that has failed to create reasons for you to invest. Scenes where a knife wielding cannibal and an unpredictable stranger meet in the middle of the dessert, should be a scene dripping with tension. You should be nervously waiting to see how this potentially explosive situation will resolve itself, but I couldn’t have cared less. I sat there in a melancholy state, waiting for the film to get on with it. One of the main characters could have died in a moment like this and I wouldn’t have minded at all, I would have simply moved on to the next empty scene.
And then in the end the film wraps up with the most laughable conclusion that left me totally bewildered. It tries to suggest that the two main characters that you’ve kinda been following throughout (Miami Man and Arlen) might now embark on a relationship. Two characters who had never had one hint of chemistry throughout the film, all of a sudden want to be together. It might be the most ridiculous element of the entire film.
This film felt like it was slapped together based upon one or two semi-decent ideas and they hoped they could fill in the gaps with quirky imagery. Instead they delivered 2 hours of nothing. I would sit there desperate to check how long the film had left but would stop myself, from fear that I might not like the answer. I might realise there was still a lot of film left to sit thorough. I think more than anything else, that says exactly how I felt about watching this film.
I am NOT recommending The Bad Batch. Despite it being easy to find and watch (it’s on Netflix) that doesn’t mean you should. Be happy in the fact that you haven’t seen this film and go on with your day. Find anything else to watch, or maybe even go outside. Anything would be better than watching this film.
So what did you think of my review? I’d love to know your thoughts; what feedback you have. So leave any of that in the comments section down below. I’d love it if you could give both my blog and my Twitter – @GavinsRamblings – a follow, that would be swell. I’ll finish up now by thanking you for your time and wishing you a wonderful day.