The Bad Batch follows Arlen (Suki Waterhouse) after she’s left in a Texas wasteland fenced off from civilization. While trying to navigate the unforgiving landscape, Arlen is captured by a savage band of cannibals led by the mysterious Miami Man (Jason Momoa). With her life on the line, she makes her way to The Dream (Keanu Reeves). As she adjusts to life in ‘The Bad Batch’ Arlen discovers that being good or bad mostly depends on who’s standing next to you.
Set in a dystopian Texas wasteland that resembles Burning Man, Ana Lily Amirpour’s follow up to A Girl Walks Home Alone at Night is another genre bender. This time getting an ensemble of familiar faces to embrace their inner weird, The Bad Batch is odd in narrative but striking in visuals. The Texas we’re presented with is bleak and dreamy though it shows us a society that is broken. We meet many intriguing characters who live their lives differently, from the bulked up bodybuilders to the ‘The Dream enthusiasts’, they all accept the circumstances accordingly.
What made Amirpour’s directorial debut a hit was how she managed to add nuance without needing to dump exposition. We aren’t given a lot of answers and it seems appropriate. The films quietest moments are the most effective here, what isn’t said carries the most weight. Though we don’t know these characters all that well we’re invested in them due to their implied history. The shots of characters eyeing each other down in the middle of the desolate desert speaks volumes. At just under two hours the film does hit a snag where it starts to backpedal and the story starts to feel muddled and monotonous. Insert Keanu Reeves.
The main cast members all do a bang up job portraying oddballs in this broken down world. Suki Waterhouse’s Arlen isn’t a likeable character but her motivations and decisions are engaging and alluring. Jason Momoa’s Miami Man, one of the cannibal commune leaders is right out of some fan fiction. With his poker face, the mysterious man drives a motorbike through the desert which comes off as oddly comedic.
Without saying too much, Jim Carrey has a role which seams like a match made in heaven for the iconic actor. Last and certainly not least, in one of his best roles in recent years, Keanu Reeves plays The Dream. The cult leader of the Comfort compound, Reeves is clearly having a lot of fun as the Elvis ripoff. Though we love him in John Wick, its nice to see him playing around in the independent circuit with films like The Neon Demon and The Bad Batch. With his supporters surrounding him, The Dream delivers a great monologue which ends up being one of the most memorable parts of the film.
To sum it all up, The Bad Batch doesn’t do anything new with its story but the film has many technical achievements to be proud of. The camera moves effortlessly and captures the dour location brilliantly. If the visuals were compared to previous films imagine Spring Breakers meets Fury Road. The film is enhanced thanks to a soundtrack of electronic beats that play well with the neon glow that litters the screen throughout. Thanks to a credible cast, Reeves in particular, the film mixes black comedy with gruesome horror seamlessly. The Bad Batch further establishes Amirpour’s visual flare and makes for a strong follow up to her directorial debut.