Brought to you by the director of A Girl Walks Home Alone at Night (2014), Ana Lily Amirpour, The Bad Batch follows Arlen, a new member of a “bad batch” of humans who are fenced off from the rest of society in a Texas wasteland. Left to fend for herself with only a burger and a jug of water, Arlen heads towards the renowned “Comfort” to start her new life. Seemingly unaware of the severity of her situation and the dangers of her surroundings, Arlen is caught unawares by a gang of cannibals who capture her for their supper.
Warning: Spoilers ahead.
Firstly, before I delve in, I’ll state that I’ll try to do my best not to objectify Jason Momoa in this review, who plays the role of Miami Man, the leader of the cannibals. Although, it seems blatantly obvious that one of the main reasons Amirpour cast Momoa was for his muscle and good looks, I’ll come back to why she did this later.
The Bad Batch features an interesting cast. In her first leading role Suki Waterhouse brings an interesting presence in her role as Arlen, very cool and aloof considering her characters circumstances, but since we see absolutely none of her back story, it’s hard to judge whether Arlen is some hardened criminal or just a regular bad egg. Nevertheless, Waterhouse did a respectable job of her role. Other well-established actors involved in this film were Keanu Reeves, Diego Luna, Giovanni Ribisi, and Jim Carrey, and whilst they all did a decent job, I must say that the almost unrecognisable Jim Carrey stole the show with his non-speaking part as The Hermit.
After Arlen’s capture, she is tied up and her arm and leg is eaten by the cannibals, I can only assume that their victims are kept alive to ensure freshness in the sweltering heat. After a huge amount of blood loss and loss of limbs, Arlen amazingly manages to single-handedly take down a muscular woman and makes her escape on a skateboard. As Arlen edges towards death in the middle of the desert, she is scooped up by The Hermit and taken to safety in Comfort. Some time passes and we find Arlen fully healed in her new life in Comfort, overcome by boredom Arlen venture out into the desert with a gun. Whilst wandering she encounters, unbeknownst to her, the wife and daughter of Miami Man, in an effort to seek justice for her mutilation, Arlen kills the wife and takes their daughter Honey (Jayda Fink) with her back to Comfort.
Arlen, not being up to the task of parenting and still not having found what she is looking for, takes a trip on LSD whilst leaving Honey on her own in the middle of a rave. As Honey aimlessly wanders with her new pet rabbit, she is spotted and taken in by The Dream (Reeves). With The Dream being the head honcho of Comfort, he provides all Honey needs.
Arlen: Strange isn’t it? Here we are. In the darkest corner of this Earth. And we’re afraid of our own kind.
As Arlen goes deeper into her trip she again ventures out into the desert and speculates about the universe and her existence, it is then that she encounters Miami Man who is in search of his daughter Honey. Arlen awakes confused in the desert and Miami Man gives her an ultimatum, to find his daughter or he will end her life. As Miami and Arlen travel back to Comfort, Arlen queries about Miami’s past, clearly experiencing some turmoil due to her attraction to Miami, Arlen waivers when she eventually threatens Miami with a knife and calls him evil for his cannibalism. Out of the blue, Miami is shot by a stranger on a motorbike who offers to take Arlen back to Comfort, she reluctantly leaves Miami.
On returning to Comfort, Arlen is full of regret and seeks to complete her mission for Miami, she infiltrates The Dream’s fortress and escapes from Comfort with Honey, simultaneously Miami is found by The Hermit who nurses him back to health. When Arlen and Miami reunite, Arlen grabs his hand and asks to stay with him. Miami then kills Honey’s rabbit for food in a symbolic “shrugging off” from his past as a cannibal.
I have mixed feelings about The Bad Batch, if I can suspend my disbelief, at best it could be seen as a refreshing take on romance and forgiveness. It does raise some interesting discussions about morality in survival situations. On the other hand, the cynic in me feels the film is incredibly manipulative. Are we supposed to believe that Arlen can forgive a person, who had a choice of a different life but chose cannibalism and who believes he is justified in his lifestyle, just because he is really, really ridiculously good-looking? It just doesn’t sit well with me. Amirpour manipulates the audience into believing Miami must be a good cannibal, because he paints and loves his daughter, and he did a mercy killing on that women that he ate. So deep, so sensitive. I’m not buying it. Correct me if I’m wrong but I believe Amirpour chose Momoa for this role specifically for this reason and as someone who was hailed as a voice for feminism for her previous film, this feels like one step forward and two steps back. The Bad Batch does have some significant issues, as well as being manipulative, the film meanders and feels directionless, this is somewhat made up for by Jim Carrey being awesome, the great soundtrack and brilliant visuals.
I’ll admit, Amirpour was partially successful in manipulating me and that’s why if I could I would rate it a 6.5 out of 10, but considering you can’t do that on IMDb, I’ve been nice and given it a 7.