Combustible Celluloid
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With: Suki Waterhouse, Jason Momoa, Jayda Fink, Keanu Reeves, Diego Luna, Jim Carrey, Yolonda Ross, Aye Hasegawa, Giovanni Ribisi, Louie Lopez Jr., E.R. Ruiz, Cory Roberts
Written by: Ana Lily Amirpour
Directed by: Ana Lily Amirpour
MPAA Rating: R for violence, language, some drug content and brief nudity
Running Time: 118
Date: 06/23/2017

The Bad Batch (2017)

3 1/2 Stars (out of 4)

An Arm and a Leg

By Jeffrey M. Anderson

Though definitely not for mainstream tastes, Ana Lily Amirpour's bizarre, beautiful effort feels like an arthouse movie from an earlier time, more of a dare than a comfort, more active than passive.

In The Bad Batch, Arlen (Suki Waterhouse) is given a tattoo of a number on her neck, taken to a fence, and locked in. This is a dystopian world, where the "bad batch," i.e. society's undesirables, are sent to the desert to fend for themselves. She meets a batch of cannibals, led by the mountainous "Miami Man" (Jason Momoa), who cut off her arm and her leg.

A helpful hermit (Jim Carrey) brings her to the town of "Comfort," run by a well-spoken man called The Dream (Keanu Reeves). She settles in, surrounded by strange characters. While scavenging the wastelands, she runs into two of the cannibals. She kills one, while taking the other, a little girl, back to Comfort. Unfortunately, this brings Miami Man, looking for the girl, to her door.

It takes a few cues from defiant, edgy movies like the Mad Max series, Tank Girl, The Hills Have Eyes, El Topo, and Zabriskie Point, but it's different in its own unique way. Amirpour, who made her incredible debut with the equally hard-to-categorize A Girl Walks Home Alone at Night, is gifted at pure cinema.

Her compositions are extraordinary, using powerful depth of space as well as odd, striking juxtapositions in nearly every shot. She favors silence over dialogue, though music, especially pop songs, is important. Mainly, her movies seem to be about wanderers (like modern-day cowboys) exploring weird landscapes, and perhaps hoping to find a place that seems good enough.

Along the way, the journey is funny, horrifying, magical, awful, and beautiful, with so many great moments, especially the surprising and great performance by Jim Carrey. Many will find the 118-minute running time a bit daunting for an "experimental" movie, but a few brave souls will be totally swept away.

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