Once again, this week finds us walking the fine line between B-movie greatness and despair. Rather blatantly stealing from the Mad Max franchise, will this week bring us badassery on the level of Furiosa or is a repeat of Ouija Shark in the cards?
In a post-apocalyptic desert wasteland, former bounty hunter partners compete for kills while unwittingly unraveling a conspiracy. In no way influenced by Mad Max.
Ah, the future. Is there a single piece of media from the past 10 years where it isn’t a nightmarishly awful hellscape?
This one is no exception; in our film’s vision of the future, corporate interests have escalated into all-out warfare, leaving the world a barren wasteland. As those left behind attempt to rebuild society, the Council of Nine forms some sort of shadow government that people seem to virtually worship. The Council rewards bounty hunters with stacks of cash and fame for tracking down and killing the white collar criminals responsible for society’s collapse. Undisputed queen of the pack is Mary Death, a bounty killer who most definitely has an unspoken past with the aloof Drifter.
As Drifter receives the news that the latest warrant is for a friend and informant of his, Jack, a down on his luck gun caddy manages to join forces with the loner. Both Drifter and Mary are keen on claiming the bounty for this kill. When shady associates of the development company Second Sun track Mary down, she suspects they are connected to Drifter. Even more infuriated when she learns that the next warrant is out for Drifter himself because of his white collar criminal past, Mary is determined to kill him herself.
However, before bounty killers can take him out, Drifter decides to throw himself on the mercy of the Council. As Jack sabotages Mary’s car, she is left stranded with only her homicidal urges to keep her company. The Drifter and Jack aren’t far along on their journey when they encounter a hostile group of gypsies (regrettably, this word gets tossed around a LOT, and the group is only ever referred to in the most problematic of ways). Blaming Drifter for the escape of Nuri, one of their own, years ago, the duo seems destined to die unless they can get away. Before this happens, though, we’re going to get the entire tragic backstory of Drifter and Mary because spoiler/not really a spoiler, Mary is Nuri.
After assassinating the king, Mary escaped the gypsies and tracked down Drifter, demanding he teach her to be a bounty killer. Once her training is complete, they become both business and romantic partners…until the day Drifter suggests they settle down and Mary responds by stabbing him and leaving him for dead. I support people leaving relationships that don’t work, but it’s probably better to have a conversation rather than risk ending up on Snapped.
In the present, Drifter and Jack escape, though with some high-speed antics. As they make their way across the Badlands, Mary catches up, only to make up with Drifter. Now a team, the three make their way to the Council to find it destroyed. When they are ambushed by the Second Sun lot, chaos ensues. Can our unlikely heroes compete against the forces that promise to destroy any hope for the future?
2.5/5 Pink Panther Heads
I would almost give this a surprise 3, but there are a lot of issues, particularly in the first half. The plot is actually more developed than needed for this type of film, and some of the twists, while not especially shocking, are fun to watch unfold. I wish the storylines had been woven together better as, once the character relationships are more firmly established, the plot is significantly more interesting. Our villain Catherine is extremely one-dimensional, but I would have loved to see more moments of her simply being awful and evil.
Mary Death is the scene stealer here, and she has a stunning if rather male gaze-y appearance. No one in their right mind would think it makes sense to kill people while wearing white, especially when the alternative to being covered in blood is being covered in dust. I can’t help admiring the aesthetic of a woman who has bombs branded with her own logo, but Mary is simultaneously compelling and frustrating as a character. From a worldbuilding standpoint, it makes no sense to me that bounty killers gain a certain amount of celebrity–surely this would just make the job more difficult. Add in the fact that Mary has somehow dodged the gypsies for years while rising to prominence as a bounty killer and the logic is…negligible.
I would say that, in addition to the pacing issues and horrible dialogue, the portrayal of the gypsies and all of the racist nonsense around them is the worst part of this film. It’s so problematic that this group represents the vast number of people of color onscreen too.
I’d like to take this opportunity to register a formal complaint about the horrendous nicknames here as well. The Drifter calls Jack “kid” all the fucking time despite being 2 YEARS older. If anyone pulled that shit with me, I would resign immediately. This pales in comparison to Drifter’s terrible “Fender Bunny” nickname for Mary.
Though this is surprisingly good for what it is, most of the “edgy” social commentary and reflections on corporate greed fall flat. If you want a legitimately compelling examination of similar themes, try the Canadian TV show Continuum. Mostly because I (still) want more people to watch Continuum.