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Begging To Become A Cult Film – Bad Batch (2016)

Watching “Bad Batch” is like that kind of an odd nightmare, that doesn’t give you cold sweat at night, but you wake up tired anyway. 

How come? Because it’s a very tiring experience to watch it. The creativity present is astonishing, but the complete lack of an engaging plot, rather poor acting and forced-out begging for “being cool” makes Ana Lily Amarpour’s effort absolutely forgettable.

The film follows Arlen (Suki Waterhouse), a young girl, who belongs to the titular “Bad Batch”, which stands for people left out in a dessert, where only the strongest will survive. The dry, inimical world favors cannibalism as a means of survival. In a rather unfortunate series of events, Arlen soon meets a muscled cannibal named Miami Man (Jason Momoa).

I will not say how good Ana Lily Amarpour can be as a director, nor will I spend time on trotting out the virtues of “A Girl Walks Home Alone At Night”. As it was in her feature debut, “Bad Batch” is literally bursting with spellbinding imagination – the non-cannibal haven known as “Comfort” is taken out of some B-movie classic, whilst the tatterdemalions wandering in the scorching heat belong to “Mad Max”.

There is more – a gym made in an airplane-crush site and brutal scenes of cutting limbs off directed with a Tarantinesque twist. Still not enough? Let’s not forget tiny episodes by unrecognizable Jim Carrey, Giovanni Ribisi as a mad hobo, Diego Luna as a cowboy DJ and Keanu Reeves, who all should have been icings on the cake. It all sounds like an instant cult film – how on Earth didn’t it work out?

Due to many reasons, but most importantly, because this film is just atrociously boring. The vague plot deserves everything, but praise. In its core, “Bad Batch” is about a girl, miraculously saving herself from being a human stew, then spending an awful amount of time on walking around to eventually fall in love with shirtless Jason Momoa. Despite that Momoa’s silhouette is one to fall in love with, it really does not constitute enough reason to like “Bad Batch”. There are “cool” images with vicious brutality, people looking at the dessert and sometimes people walking or running in the dessert. Only “Mad Max” could pull that off.

If the script is poor, usually it is mirrored by acting. Whilst Momoa is famous for just looking good on the screen, Arlen is neither charming nor a strong lead. Partially it is due to Waterhouse’s limited acting skills, but mostly because Amarpour has no clue what to do with her protagonist. So Arlen wanders in the dessert, sometimes sits in a junkyard. Momoa does that too, but he definitely has more charisma. Even in sitting and staring at the horizon.

Amarpour was trying too hard to make each scene memorable. “Bad Batch” is a two-hours long music video, with some extremely cool visuals to be fair. But that’s it. This apocalyptic world is overly kept as a mystery, because such a simple story could use some complex background. The viewer never learns what led to such state of things, what other world is out there, apart from cannibals tearing apart the newest additions to the titular leftovers.

Even the soundtrack reflects everything wrong with the film. From electronic darlings Darkside to Ace of fucking Base – it begs to become equally iconic as Tarantino’s or Coens’ choices. At times it works. “All That She Wants” by the latter band fits perfectly the disgusting scene from the very beginning. Yet, the more contrast Amarpour uses between the soothing soundtrack and graphic images, the more predictable she becomes. Only Jason Momoa dancing to “Dragostea Din Tei” would be a shock after an hour of the screening.

Eventually, what was supposed to be an artsy variation on western, set in a dystopian world of dehumanized leftovers of the society, ends up a plotless pulp, lacking in substance and its own shape. As bad and boring as it is, there is one thing worth viewing – seeing Jason Momoa as a painter. But don’t waste two hours of your life – just go to Youtube.

The Bad Batch (2016)

Dir. Ana Lily Amarpour

Cast: Jason Momoa, Suki Waterhouse

Hate Grade: 7/10

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