In 2014, writer-director Ana Lily Amirpour made a striking debut with A Girl Walks Home Alone At Night. That black-and-white vampire drama was a blend of many disparate influences, from spaghetti westerns to a Jim Jarmusch-ian brand of cinematic cool.
While Amirpour’s genre hybrid was a mixed bag in terms of lasting emotional resonance, A Girl Walks was a fully realised vision; the work of a filmmaker in complete control of their high concept. This is a trait sadly, and sorely, absent from her star-studded follow-up, The Bad Batch.
In a dystopian America, those considered undesirable due to various afflictions or misdeeds are banished to a waste land outside Texas and left to fend for themselves. Factions have formed across the desert, and Arlen (Suki Waterhouse) runs afoul of one cannibal group right after her banishing.
Escaping, minus an arm and a leg, she finds refuge in the community of Comfort. Revenge proves all too tempting, though, and while wandering the badlands one day she finds the daughter (Jayda Fink) of the cannibal leader, Miami Man (non-Cuban Jason Momoa problematically playing Cuban), and kidnaps her, setting off a chain of events involving brutal violence, hallucinations and a strange romance.
Peppered along this journey are a moustachioed cult leader (Keanu Reeves) with a harem of gun-toting pregnant women, a raving preacher of sorts (Giovanni Ribisi doing his Giovanni Ribisi-est), bunnies, and a mute drifter played by an unrecognisable Jim Carrey.
In isolation, some of this might sound compelling. Batched together, it forms an interminable slog. The style mishmash – also including a bit of Mad Max – doesn’t coalesce into anything substantial, nor do the flashy attempts at transgression (Ace Of Base and Culture Club playing in torture scenes) and political commentary amount to more than insipidness. A trippy barrage of visual and sonic excess seems the intent, but it’s not so much a hypnotic film as a batch of zest-free stuff, most of it bad.