Review – The Bad Batch

By Daniel Hart
Published: September 28, 2017 (Last updated: December 12, 2023)

There is a paltry amount of dialogue in The Bad Batch. This is a good tool. Convincing dialogue would not have been weighty or forceful enough to present this abject life. Netflix Original The Bad Batch, which originally was a limited release before the corporation got their sweaty paws on it, follows the story of a young girl named Arlen, who has ended up in an abandoned area of Texas which is fenced off from civilisation.

The people residing in this barren desert are labelled as the ‘bad batch’; which the movie doesn’t make clear why they are named after a substandard drug trade. With certainty, you understand in the first twenty-five minutes that this is a terrible place. Arlen is immediately captured by slimy cannibals and as you can imagine by the movie’s promotional posters, her immediate fate is not a desirable one. Amongst the wickedness of the narrative, The Bad Batch serves up a treat.

Whilst you do not hear a word uttered until well after she loses an arm and a leg, director Ana Lily Amirpour uses her immediate resources effectively: the desert and the camera. When an area of land is riddled, it’s best to show it. It brings legitimacy to the story that you can imagine to be real whilst a human indulges into another cooked human. Waste, broken vehicles, old clothes, the sound of wind and the constant fatigue of walking through hot sand gives The Bad Batch credibility.

The story is fascinating. It comprises of two camps. One is a cannibal group and the other is called Comfort. The tangible difference is noticeable as the movie tries to provide a vision of a group of people trying to get on with their situation, whilst the other only thirsts for one thing: survival. As an audience, you find yourself in the end only interested in Arlen’s objective, which is to find a life for herself in such minimal scope of existence. For a world where characters are not meant to be liked, Suki Waterhouse does an excellent job making Arlen interesting and believable. The use of low-level dialogue is used to her advantage.

Despite its obvious praises, there is a period of lull in the final phases. The difficulty is, once the world is understood, it is difficult to maintain the same level of interest, but nor does the film try to reel you back in. The Bad Batch could have benefitted from being 10 minutes shorter, because there was clearly an incentive to provide the audience with a deeper understanding of this abandoned Texas. If I am honest, I did not care. My sole interest was in the outcome of Arlen.

The Bad Batch is a very good film. Do not let its description sway you away from watching it. It is not that violent despite the gruesome topic. Oh, it also stars Keanu Reeves so if you want to see him again in a role you find slightly uncanny (like To The Bone) then add this to your watch list. It is surprisingly beautiful.

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