Offbeat Movies

I love movies that are quirky and well made and well acted. Here you will find reviews of movies you may not have heard of (I will try to avoid commercial successes, but some of them are good) that caught my attention because they are thought-provoking, have interesting story lines, unique characters, and good acting.

Monday, January 15, 2018

The Bad Batch

Fair warning: a lot of people don’t like this movie. If you want a story that makes sense and spoon feeds you a moral, this movie is not for you. If you want a movie that sugar coats, well, anything, do not watch this.

The Bad Batch takes place in a near-future world where prison has been replaced with permanent exile to the desert, but there is little dialogue and no explanation of how this system evolved or works, or how the exiles manage to survive.  The viewer has to figure it out entirely from observation.  That puts you squarely in the heroine’s shoes.  Or shoe.

The first ten minutes of the film are brutal.  It is a steep and sudden plunge into a starkly daylit nightmare.  (No spoilers.)  If you have trouble watching this scene take heart that it gets better.  Unlike slasher horror, where violence escalates, the violence in this film never reaches that level again.

In fact, this film is a romance.

The world of The Bad Batch is a sci-fi-western mashup, a dumping ground where damaged people try to rebuild the world they had out of whatever they can scrounge. For example, the only ambulance service is a mute homeless man with a shopping cart, which only comes to your aid if you are lucky enough that he finds you. This is a world way out of anyone’s comfort zone.

There are two towns or camps in this exile: Bridge and Comfort.  Bridge is a tribe-like collection of tattooed body-building cannibals.

Comfort is a town with running water and electricity, run by a cult-leader-drug-lord called The Dream.  It is walled and defended, it has a doctor, it has homes, and you can trip out on acid at the street party for free.  This is where our heroine, Arlen, should want to stay, right?

Wrong.  She returns time and again to the open desert.

It is in the desert that she meets Miami Man, the film’s love interest, a muscled Bridge cannibal, who is looking for his daughter (whom Arlen incidentally stole and subsequently lost in Comfort). Miami Man is a study in contradictions: an artist, a loving father, and a man of his word, who looks like an outlaw biker and kills people to feed his family.

Arlen, by comparison, falls a bit flat. She doesn’t have much of a personality beyond deep-seated (and understandable) anger, and a strong will to survive. My impression is that the script writer or director was too busy looking through her eyes to take a good look at her. This is a not a movie that suffers from male gaze.

If you want a moral, you are out of luck. Cannibals are better than drug lords? Fuck society and be an anarchist?  Life’s like a movie, write your own ending? We are so used, in Western storytelling, to morality plays that the lack of one in this movie is disconcerting.  And maybe that is the point: the gaps and roughness of the story leave room for questions rather than providing canned answers.


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