This is an archived article that was published on sltrib.com in 2017, and information in the article may be outdated. It is provided only for personal research purposes and may not be reprinted.
As sophomore slumps go, filmmaker Ana Lily Amirpour's horror-thriller "The Bad Batch" is at least an interesting one a gloss on the junkyard dystopia genre that offers a lot to look at, even if it doesn't all hold together.
In a near-future society, tough gal Arlen (Suki Waterhouse) is left on the other side of the fence from Texas, a territory where all sorts of undesirables called Bad Batch are abandoned to their own devices. Walking across the desert, Arlen doesn't get far before she's bushwhacked by some nastier and better-equipped thugs.
Chained up, she soon learns her captors, led by the muscular Miami Man (Jason Momoa), survive by eating human flesh. This information literally costs her an arm and a leg, but she manages to escape with the rest of her limbs intact. With the help of a hermit (a wordless and nearly unrecognizable Jim Carrey), Arlen finds the relative safety of a settlement called Comfort, a well-guarded town overseen by a charismatic cult leader called The Dream (Keanu Reeves).
Cut to five months later, and Arlen has a prosthetic leg to replace the one she lost. She's faring well in Comfort, but wants to go back into the wasteland to seek revenge on Miami Man. What she finds are Miami Man's woman, Maria (Yolonda Ross), and their daughter, Honey (Jayda Fink). Arlen takes Honey back to Comfort, and Miami Man soon follows.
Amirpour, in her follow-up to her intense Iranian-Western vampire movie "A Girl Walks Home Alone at Night," doesn't reinvent the dystopian genre so well established by movies such as "Mad Max" and "Escape From New York." She does, however, conjure up some arresting variations on the idea, particularly in the bread-and-circuses rave scene of The Dream's mansion.
While her visual flair is strong, Amirpour's arch tone stifles the charisma of her cast, particularly the Aquaman-in-waiting Momoa. By the end of "The Bad Batch," she has painted a fascinating scene, but she's also painted her characters into corners from which she can't help them escape.
'The Bad Batch'
A young woman is thrown into a dystopian wasteland, facing cannibals and a cult leader, in this uneven horror-thriller.
Where • Tower Theatre.
When • Opens Friday, June 23.
Rating • R for violence, language, some drug content and brief nudity.
Running time • 118 minutes.