Following up from her impressive feature length debut A Girl Walks Home Alone at Night was never going to be easy. Where to go after the stylish, black & white female vampire, love story/thriller? Well, apparently cannibals in American wastelands is the thing!
A young woman is designated Bad Batch, tattooed with a BB number and escorted out of the US, by the authorities, through a high chain link fence and left to fend for herself. A slow beginning allows the full extent of the environment to be seen and it is pretty desolate, not a place you want to find yourself. Let’s just say that things go from bad to worse for young Arlen from this moment onwards.
The story is intriguing, left me guessing what was going to happen for the most of it, only really solidifying on a true path near the end, making it a compelling watch. Add to this the gorgeous visuals throughout this film, we get a definite sense of stylish filmmaking; Lyle Vincent continuing his excellent work with Ana Lily Amirpour’s direction, both having worked on A Girl Walks Home Alone at Night.
Suki Waterhouse as Arlen is a real presence on screen, drawing the eye but also showing real fortitude throughout, dragging herself up out of the shit. Literally! Ably supported by a huge looking Miami Man, or whatever his name is (Jason Momoa), showing a sensitive side alongside his obvious talents at inflicting harm. It is just a shame that his strong Cuban accent took quite a bit of getting used to. Then the main event: Keanu Reeves in full flow but not as you know him previously. As The Dream, he is the cultish ruler of a settlement called Comfort and is resplendent in his pornstar sunglasses and dad bod! And a moustache to challenge the best of them.
It has a bit of Mad Max in the exiled wastelands but the main feeling I got from it was this is a Tarantino-lite film, just without being dialogue-heavy. Fantastic characters, graphic violence, glorious visuals and a stand-out soundtrack are all here, the hallmarks of a QT production. With the soundtrack we get a great mix of genres and times, one of the best I’ve heard this year I thought, fitting in so well with the film and characters.
As a standalone film it is really well done. As a follow up to A Girl Walks, it elevates Ana Lily Amirpour most definitely into the “one to watch” category. Stylish and violent but also intriguing and interesting, count me in as a fan!