Ana Lily Amirpour falls victim to the sophomore slump with The Bad Batch. Like her strong debut, A Girl Walks Home Alone At Night, she creates a strange world for her characters to inhabit. However, a languid pace makes for a tiring experience.
The film takes place in a Texan wasteland where social rejects are marooned by society. There the inhabitants have fenced themselves off into two tribes: cannibalistic meatheads, and a hedonistic enclave called Comfort, led by cult leader Keanu Reeves.
Enter Arlen (Suki Waterhouse), who quickly loses an arm and a leg to the cannibals, but manages to escape and find Comfort. Once the main plot reveals itself to be far more conventional than its premise, the shine of the original setting wears off.
Amirpour leaves sections of her world-building blank, allowing the audience to fill them in. This allows her setting to feel both ripe and mysterious. What works less well is Amirpour’s social commentary, which comes across as blunt in its delivery and aimless in its meaning. Gentrification is one of the themes touched upon through the prism of a wasted Keanu, but it’s never fleshed out.
Waterhouse also fails to impress as Arlen. True to her roots as a model, she looks iconic as a millennial Western gunslinger, yet her character fails to engage as fully-formed. This can largely be blamed on Amirpour’s minimalist approach to dialogue, because what’s there feels laboured; needlessly epic pauses between spurts of speaking also hurt the film’s pace.
It’s a shame that the world of The Bad Batch wasn’t put to better use, as the film looks great. But unfortunately, the visuals are not enough to save this psychedelic Western from its mediocre plot, half-formed characters and weak dialogue.
CAST: Suki Waterhouse, Jason Momoa, Keanu Reeves, Jim Carrey, Giovanni Ribisi
DIRECTOR: Ana Lily Amirpour
WRITER: Ana Lily Amirpour
SYNOPSIS: A dystopian love story set in a Texas wasteland and its community of cannibals.