The best films (and even some of the worst) are fueled by a sense of purpose and intent. The Bad Batch, the new film from Iranian-American director Ana Lily Amirpour, lacks both. The hyper-violent fantasia is littered with limbs and half-baked commentary, but no reason to exist.
The film opens with a young woman, Arlen (Suki Waterhouse) being released on the other side of a chain-link fence in the southwestern desert. She has been labeled “bad batch,” a designation for criminals and undesirables.
Arlen wanders through the scorched landscape until female bodybuilders driving a golf cart kidnap and imprison her. They’ve resorted to cannibalism in the punishing desert, so they amputate an arm and a leg, before Suki manages to escape. Outfitted with a prosthetic leg by the carefree partiers of a competing outpost, she sets off to avenge her missing limbs.
There are hints that Amirpour wants The Bad Batch to be some kind of commentary on current politics—an American flag puzzle with some missing pieces is featured prominently—but nothing in the film approaches that with coherence. Scenes of brutal violence alternate with attempts at comedy in ways that would make Quentin Tarantino wince.
Waterhouse, originally a model, betrays her origins with a mostly blank face and shaky American accent. The supporting roles are more interesting: Keanu Reeves looks like he’s having fun for once as a virile cult leader, and an almost unrecognizable Jim Carrey plays a mute junk collector.
There are occasional inspired images throughout the film’s two-hour runtime, but they aren’t enough to create something meaningful. The Bad Batch ends up being little more than a morass of blood and sand.