The indie, arthouse, and western genres collide in The Bad Batch– a film that is bound to divide audiences. Set in a fenced-in desert wasteland outside of Texas, the film follows a young woman named Arlen, who is dropped into the lawless area and attacked by cannibals. Several months after her attack, a mostly-healed Arlen wanders the desert, eventually taking up with another group of cannibals as she adjusts to life in the bad batch.
The Bad Batch was written and directed by Ana Lily Amirpour, the filmmaker behind the brilliant (and underseen) A Girl Walks Home Alone at Night. The film features the talented cast of Jason Momoa (identified as Khal Drogo, Aquaman, and the guy that makes you breathe heavy), Keanu Reeves (Wick, Neo, Shane Falco), Giovanni Ribisi (Saving Private Ryan, the weird guy in Ted), Jim Carrey (The man, the myth, the legend), and newcomer Suki Waterhouse, who you should probably expect great things out of.
Where the film most succeeds is in Amirpour’s direction, which is a masterclass in shot-framing and symbolic visuals- there were times that I literally gasped and mumbled to myself about how great these shots were. If Amirpour isn’t on your radar as a filmmaker to watch out for, she damn well should be- the performances, which are great across the board, but especially from the actors named above, and the soundtrack, which is one of 2017’s greatest and feels entirely true to the tone and setting of the film.
As much as I personally loved The Bad Batch, there’s no denying that this is far from a perfect film- nor is it for everyone. The story, as well-executed as it is, tends to be fairly thin and drawn out. Clocking in at just under the two hour mark, Amirpour’s film starts to feel a bit long in the tooth with its often sluggish pace and stretches of uneventfulness. Another thing worth mentioning is that the dialogue in The Bad Batch is scarce. There are many moments of silent interaction between characters. In fact, Jim Carrey’s Hermit, though a standout of heart and humor in the film, doesn’t speak a word. While I appreciate the silent effectiveness, I can see others finding the film bland or boring at times.
The Bad Batch isn’t for everyone, but if it’s your aesthetic, you’re going to love it. Familiar yet fresh, dramatic yet oddly funny, and unwavering in its moments of violence, Amirpour’s film brings us into a shitty world of bad people, and somehow, through her beautiful lens, makes us want to stay.