Collaborative Blogging, Film Reviews

Bounty Killer, or: Stab Me Once, Shame on You

*Spoilers follow*

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?

The Film:

Bounty Killer

The Premise:

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.

The Ramble:

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.

A woman leans out of the driver's side of a vintage car, aiming a revolver with one hand.

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.

Two men ride across a desert landscape on motorcycles.

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.

A group of three men and a woman are forced to kneel on the ground in front of a line of armed men.

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?

The Rating:

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.

Would my blog wife back this one up as a gun caddy or chase it with a pistol across a desert landscape while driving a classic car with one foot? Find out in her review!

Collaborative Blogging, Film Reviews

Seeking a Friend for the End of the World, or: I Was Promised Melanie Lynskey

This week’s pick is a stretch in terms of our Melanie Lynskey theme, but the only other films of hers coming to my mind were Heavenly Creatures and Ever After.  Since we’re all about broadening our horizons through this blog collab, we opted for this questionable doomsday comedy that, sadly, doesn’t give our star of the month (year, life, etc) a lot of screen time, but does feature more cameos than you can shake a stick at.

The Film:

Seeking a Friend for the End of the World

(Fun fact:  the acronym for this film is SAFFTEOTW)

Where to Watch:

Netflix (US)

The Uncondensed Version:

After the failure of one final space mission to divert the path of an incoming asteroid, it seems the existence of humanity is rapidly drawing to a close.  With the realization that human existence will end in 3 weeks, Dodge (Steve Carell) tries to carry on as usual, while his wife literally runs off as quickly as she can in the opposite direction.

Dodge visits his friends, who try to set him up with a date during one last party, conveniently creating the opportunity for an absurd number of cameos  This is where our girl Melanie Lynskey enters the fray as a somewhat out of character, over the top flirt wearing a tiara.  I really wish she’d been given more to do here, as she appears for maybe 5 minutes max, though that’s true for most of the cameos in this film.

a woman in a fur coat and tiara talks to other elegantly dressed party guests
Our queen appropriately adorned.

Despite everyone at the party going nuts in the true spirit of carpe diem, Dodge remains aloof and unable to enjoy the atmosphere (and admittedly, some of the shit on these people’s bucket lists is pretty fucked up, including shooting up heroin and letting their young children get wasted).

When he returns to his apartment, Dodge is alarmed to find his upstairs neighbor Penny (Keira Knightley) crying on the balcony.  An eternal fuck-up, she has made the most regrettable mistake of her life and missed the last plane home to see her family in England.  When she asks about old pictures Dodge has been going through, he reveals his own regret—losing his first love, Olivia.  Penny also inadvertently reveals details about his wife’s affair, of which Dodge had been blissfully unaware up to this point.  However, she does have good news in the form of a letter mistakenly delivered to her apartment months ago from none other than Olivia.

a man and woman sit on opposite ends of a sofa looking bored, the woman smoking a cigarette
Appropriate reaction to the realization that ML’s role in this film is over.

When rioters threaten the apartment building, Dodge and Penny flee the city to find a route to Olivia and track down a plane–with the company a dog named Sorry that has been left in Dodge’s care.  TBH, the dog is probably the only one besides ML (and Gillian Jacobs, who appears later) who’s not phoning it in for this film.  Before they leave, Penny grabs a few favorite records because that’s her one defining personality trait in this film and should appeal to the trendy youths in the audience (none of whom watched this film with me, except maybe Bertha Mason, but she’d be more into destroying vinyl).

Since this is a journey film, our crew hits the road after catching a lift with a seemingly nice man driving along.  If you are like me, you will probably wait for him to be revealed as a secret cannibal or human taxidermist, but really the only thing memorable about his character is his readiness to die (which I think is pretty understandable considering the circumstances).  This sets up a long line of characters and scenarios that would be cleverly and occasionally obnoxiously quirky in any other road trip comedy, but fall flat here.  The overly friendly staff at a restaurant have a really boring secret, the police are needlessly nitpicky, and even the doomsday preppers are staggeringly normal.

a man talks to a woman who is holding a stack of vinyl records in an empty street
Vinyl…something about drinking port and listening to the Velvet Underground on vinyl…blah blah blah…extended hipster stereotypes, etc, etc.

Initially, there’s a balance between the apocalyptic and romance threads that weave throughout the film, but eventually the romance plot takes over with Penny revealing personal stories about her family and practically writing a love song to vinyl.  At a certain point it feels like the writers took turns drawing random lines of dialogue from a hat of full of romantic comedy clichés.

When the two do finally track down Olivia’s house in Delaware, it’s so, so, so anti-climactic and frustrating.  It’s obvious that Dodge and Olivia aren’t getting back together from the moment the film begins, but it’s really unsatisfying that Dodge seems to abruptly shut off his feelings for her in favor of bonding with Penny.  Narratively, it’s supposed to make viewers believe his feelings for Penny are the most genuine, but it only succeeds in making him looking fickle as fuck.

I think I should stop because I have so, so, so many problems with the ending and don’t even know where to begin.

Let’s just say this one goes out not with a bang, but with a whimper.  Though it would also be accurate to say it literally does go out with a bang.

The Rating:

3/5 PPHs

Eh, it probably deserves fewer PPHs, but I will grant some leniency for the premise (which had potential) and the brief but shining moment in which our girl ML appears.

First, let’s start out with the romance element because it gets so much goddamn screen time.  Keira Knightley and Steve Carell are really difficult for me to buy as a couple, and he seems to be more of a caring father figure than a love interest.  They are both so bland as characters, and Penny’s love for records felt tacked on to give her some semblance of personality.  I honestly felt Audrey Hepburn had more chemistry with William Holden in Sabrina, and that’s a pretty low bar.

The end also pisses me off because Dodge makes a decision for Penny rather than letting her decide, which is not the least bit romantic.  FFS, men.  STOP IT.

The tone is perhaps the biggest problem—for example, a scene where someone is making a piss joke and then gets shot a few seconds later feels out of place.  This film can never quite commit to being a comedy or a drama, failing to merge these elements together well.

I could see SAFFTEOTW more easily becoming a dark comedy or satire and couldn’t help comparing it to other works like Fido, arguably Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy, or even You, Me and the Apocalypse (that short-lived and rather uneven apocalyptic TV show starring Rob Lowe as the least believable priest in existence.  It was never going to last 7 seasons, but it was funny at least).  All of these successfully gave an apocalyptic event a dark, funny twist, and even worked in a more or less believable romantic subplot.

To be clear, the dog in this film is adorable and should be praised, given treats, and in general be considered a good dog–and I’m not even a dog person.

Would Christa befriend this one or let it all burn?  Read her review here to find out!