Have you ever had an almost instantaneous dislike for a movie?
That was my experience with Ana Lily Amirpour's The Bad Batch, a grisly post-apocalyptic nightmare that feels almost entirely pointless. 118 minutes of pure stylistic excess, this film is an absolute chore to sit through. I can't say I'm surprised, considering that festival-goers at TIFF and Venice gave it mixed reviews. But I was shocked to find such a grueling experience, a film that is about nothing and says nothing, an exercise in style that features some horrifying violence and a half-baked romance that never even comes close to working. The film features big-name stars like Jason Momoa, Jim Carrey, and Keanu Reeves, but never even tries to give them anything to work with. Every character is either a horrifying cannibal, an unlikable murderer, or a complete lunatic- there's a distinct lack of empathy in this movie that really drags it down. And while Amirpour admirably sets up a contained world, there's never any context on why this world exists, how it works, or why we should care. Instead, like the characters, the film wanders aimlessly through the desert, incidentally picking a story up along the way and lackadaisically bringing it to some kind of conclusion.
The Bad Batch feels like a glossy student film, an experiment in non-traditional storytelling that never has any real effect on the audience, leaving them in a terrifying state of pure, unadulterated boredom for most of the runtime. Amirpour is a filmmaker with talent, as she's able to create some evocative images and a harsh setting that is clearly meant to work as a commentary on societal outcasts and the current state of American politics. She has ideas and vision, but with The Bad Batch, she never is able to match that vision with anything resembling a cohesive story or a satisfying experience. Instead, it wanders and drags until the audience has nothing left to give. I admire Neon and Annapurna for taking a chance on this one, but this is unquestionably one of the most painful films I've seen all year. I had to force myself to finish it. This film is excruciatingly tedious.
THE FINAL GRADE: D (3.5/10)
Images courtesy of NEON