Were a copy of Scorched Earth to be found in a post-apocalyptic society that had thought all movies destroyed, the citizens would use it to keep the fires going.
Scorched Earth review
|Writer(s)||Kevin Leeson, Bobby Mort|
|Release Date||February 2, 2018|
Sometimes, a name is all you need.
Scorched Earth is a post-apocalyptic Western – the title is literal. In it, Gina Carano plays a bounty hunter named Attica Gage. That’s it. Review’s over. All you need to know about Scorched Earth – the plot, the tone, the quality – is all implicit in that name. Attica Gage. What were her parents thinking?
Fancy being a bit more specific?
Imagine Scorched Earth as being 45% 60s Spaghetti Western, 45% 80s direct-to-video Mad Max knockoff, and 10% utter stupidity. Carano is relatively well-cast as a kind of Woman With No Name, except she has a name, and it’s ridiculous. But Scorched Earth takes so many cues from Sergio Leone’s “Dollars Trilogy” that spotting all the images and lines that pay homage to it becomes more fun that the actual movie.
Although, to be fair, sucking the moisture out of Clint Eastwood’s dirty desert poncho would also be more fun than this movie.
What’s it about?
Set somewhere near the midpoint of the 21st century, this scorched earth has been beset by ecological upheavals that have wiped out huge swathes of the world’s population. The few survivors are dependent on masks filtered with powdered silver to breathe the charred air. Anyone who still drives gas-guzzlers is considered an outlaw; wanted dead or alive.
Gage collects these bounties. But for the purposes of an action movie, she sets her sights on a compound filled to the brim with wrong-‘uns. They’re led by a power-hungry Wild West-style town boss, Thomas Jackson (Ryan Robbins), who wants to employ slave labour in a silver mine.
Let me guess: this is more personal for Gage than just another bounty?
Got it in one. Gage’s vague plan – cooked up with her mentor and occasional sidekick, Doc (John Hannah) – is to infiltrate Jackson’s gang and dismantle it from the inside. Which goes well, at first. But the scheme is swiftly complicated by Jackson’s nosey right-hand man (Dean S. Jagger) and his girlfriend (Stephanie Bennett), who reminds Gage of a convenient tortured backstory.
So, how is Scorched Earth?
About as desultory as you might expect. The script, by Bobby Mort and Kevin Leeson, is threadbare at best and intellectually insulting at worst. The point – whatever that might be – is meandered around, and director Peter Howitt, who has helmed such outstanding action blockbusters as, erm… *checks IMDb*, Johnny English, can’t figure out how to steer his actors towards it. The production design is so cheap and low-quality that you never get the sense that the film has been shot anywhere other than in someone’s back garden, and the work overall is so lacking in energy, charisma and enthusiasm that I wouldn’t have been surprised if the thing just shut off halfway through to save everyone involved the embarrassment.
Isn’t Carano good, at least?
Watching her is fun for a little while, but what can you do? The former mixed martial arts star has only been properly directed once, in Steven Soderbergh’s Haywire, from 2011. Since then she has been lost in the lumbering machinery of big-budget franchise fare like Fast & Furious 6 and Deadpool, or had her meagre acting talents squandered in comical VOD fodder like the god-awful Extraction. I like her, and I still feel that her physical presence and abilities would lend themselves well to a vehicle built around her – much like Haywire was – but a polished actress she most certainly is not.
Jonathon is the Co-Founder of Ready Steady Cut and has been Senior Editor and Chief Critic of the outlet since 2017.