The Bad Batch is a post-apocalyptic nightmare that doesn’t seem to have much story to back up the incredible visuals that make it otherwise effective.
The Bad Batch stars Suki Waterhouse (delivering an efficient, but not stand-out performance, only somewhat selling the grit of the character) as Arlen, a young woman cast out into wasteland outside of Texas which now functions as a no-mans-land / prisoner dumping ground. Arlen is subsequently kidnapped and butchered by cannibals, losing an arm and a leg. This film is not for the faint of heart.
Joining Arlen in this wasteland is Jason Momoa as Miami Man, a hulk-like Cuban who is searching for his missing daughter. Momoa’s physical presence is on-point, to be sure, but his accent is lacking, and it feels like there are any number of Hispanic actors who could have been cast in this role instead of Momoa.
The third main role in this film is Keanu Reeves as The Dream, a DJ, cult-leader and drug-dealer who has turned the wasteland into his own personal playground. Reeves’ performance is fine here, but you can’t help but wonder what this performance might be as delivered by an actor with more nuance. As is, it’s a misuse of Reeves’ gifts as a physical actor.
The film also features surprise appearances by Giovanni Ribisi, Diego Luna and an unrecognizable Jim Carrey; of the three, only Carrey really has much to do, so it’s pretty strange that actors of such caliber were cast for these roles; it feels like the kind of thing where a more fleshed-out film might have given them more to do.
With all that said, there’s a very clear coherency of vision, with some really compelling visuals and musical choices that make it clear that, whatever issues the screenplay and characters have, Amirpour is a director to watch. I wonder if Amirpour might be better suited to work with another writer who might be able to help her clarify her vision as a story with compelling characters, to help flesh out a film that was two hours long and had forty-five minutes of story. Not having seen Amirpour’s debut, A Girl Walks Home Alone at Night, which received rave reviews, it’s hard to get a sense.