The Bad Batch is a gnarly postmodern western.
Writer/director Ana Lily Amirpour follows up her 2014 debut A Girl Walks Home Alone at Night with an interesting take on an otherwise played out haves/have nots premise. Stationed in an infinitely desolate Texan desert, Arlen (Suki Waterhouse) has been committed to a barren wasteland and is soon captured by savages. After she’s been more than acquainted with these selfish survivors, she finds refuge in a camp known as Comfort.
Just like herself, Comfort’s forlorn vagabonds are struggling through their own hopelessness and incapabilites. Their leader, a figure vaguely named The Dream (a bohemian Keanu Reeves), does his best to provide a decent escape for his followers, but Arlen strives for meaningful purpose and revenge against those who preyed on her.
The Bad Batch is a common story about persevering as an outcast, but Ana Lily Amirpour gives her story its own personality by souping-up specific character qualities as well as including extremities verging on absurdity. By doing so, this strange film is usually successful in providing the audience with memorable visuals, stunning art direction and cinematography, and creeping tension while simultaneously sinking the viewer in their own vertigo. The Bad Batch only starts to sag when the movie taps into the intimate connection between Arlen and another intimidating misfit (Jason Momoa), which makes up most of the film’s backend.
The Bad Batch will be divisive with audiences, but everyone will agree on Jim Carrey’s brilliance as a subtly-billed supporting eccentric. Carrey is unrecognizable as a mute, selfless hermit who observes life from the wings and provides assistance when he senses desperation. The actor reaches back to his comedic roots to establish an endearing personality, while also using his dramatic chops to humanize this character. He’s easily one of the best things in Ana Lily Amirpour’s sophomore effort, a jarring piece of work but addictive nonetheless.
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Addison Wylie: @AddisonWylie