Have you ever heard of the phrase, “so bad it’s good”?
It refers to works of art – usually film – that are bad in such an over-the-top manner that they swing right around to being good again. Movies such as 2003’s The Room and 2010’s Birdemic are considered classics in this genre. Well, now Netflix has given us another one: 2016’s The Bad Batch starring Suki Waterhouse, Jason Momoa and Keanu Reeves.
The story follows Arien (Waterhouse) who has been evicted to a massive desert where all of society’s undesirables are kept. In order to survive, she has to face off against enemies such as a sleazy psychedelic cult under the control of Reeves’s character and a gang of bodybuilding-obsessed surfer-bro cannibals led by Momoa’s character.
In case you haven’t guessed yet, this movie is hilariously bad. Not bad-incompetent, but bad like an end-of-year project from a first-year film student who has more passion than sense. That’s actually where most of its charm comes from and even while you’re busy laughing at all the ridiculousness, you can’t help feel just a twinge of respect.
What makes this work most is the dedication each actor/actress shows for their role. They manage to prevent their characters from slipping into a full-blown parody which, given the material they’re working with, would have been all too easy.
Momoa, for example, manages to take a character who by all rights should be so easy to hate and actually make us feel something. By the end of the movie, you’ll almost forget that he leads a gang that routinely kidnaps people for food.
Even Reeves’s character, while certainly embodying all the sleaziness of a prosperity- gospel preacher, never goes too far that it becomes cartoonish. Don’t get me wrong, it’s certainly goofy, but never so goofy that it feels unrealistic. You can totally see this character existing in the real world and conning small towns out of their money.
There’s also a surprise cameo by Jim Carrey in this, but I’ll leave it up to you to let you try and find him for yourselves.
You’ll notice that I haven’t mentioned Waterhouse’s character yet and that’s because it is the weakest of the main cast. While the rest of the performances are colourful and interesting, Waterhouse is just bland.
There’s no real defining trait of her character beyond being being grim and every time we followed her around, I kept wishing that the other characters would return so the movie would be fun again.
There are a few other problems too. The story is all over the place and can’t seem to decide what it wants to be. One moment it’s a wacky adventure through the desert, the next it’s trying to be some sort of political allegory, then it’s a totally serious drama about the human condition, and so on. It feels like a whole bunch of movies were slammed together and the end result doesn’t quite click.
Set design is also very hit or miss. Some are great, such as like the cannibal camp. , iIn keeping with their Californian white-trash motif, it is made consists almost entirely out of caravans and looks like the sort of trailer park you’d expect to see out in the more rundown side of town.
Sadly, most of the movie is spent in the vast desert wastes and we don’t get to see as much of these areas as I would have liked.
The Bad Batch won’t be winning any movie of the year awards anytime soon, but I would be lying if I said I didn’t enjoy the heck out of it.
This is the kind of movie you watch with friends and a couple of beers and honestly, sometimes that’s all you really need.