After losing their jobs, two friends travel to Baja in search of waves and enlightenment.
I think most folks at some point in their lives harbor the dream of abandoning everything, absconding to an idyllic, remote paradise, where the forceful imprint of contemporary society is not as deeply felt. The protagonists of Matthew Thomas Brown’s documentary Bad Hombres: A Baja Adventure do just that, escaping to the titular state, if only for a couple of months. Made on the ultra-cheap (purportedly this doc cost $2,000, according to IMDB), their “odyssey” looks decent enough, but lacks a coherent thread connecting its disparate parts.
Matt Brown’s journey of self-discovery begins in Los Angeles, where he’s a struggling filmmaker, while on the side caddying for celebrities at an exclusive golf resort. That’s where he meets surfer Pearson and soon follows him “in search of tasty waves” – “in a truck with no title, stuffed with marijuana”, sailing right through the Tijuana border. They eat lobster burritos at a famous joint, go spearfishing and racing, sleep in a dank “rock hole,” visit an old church and, of course, smoke a ton of pot and surf (though the limp waves of the much brought-up Scorpion Bay don’t exactly live up to expectations).
“That’s where he meets surfer Pearson and soon follows him ‘in search of tasty waves’…”
Some of Matt’s interviews are mildly diverting, while others, meandering and inconsequential, threaten to tip the whole thing over into “home footage” territory, along with the weird lags (do we really need to see our two “heroes” throw a bottle of urine at each other?), poorly-inserted graphics and even poorer transitions. In the midst of all this, Matt manages to capture some pretty scenic shots; it’s also difficult to totally hate on a film with such a laid-back vibe.
That said, what exactly was Matt’s intention behind making this 45-minute oddity? It doesn’t function as an exploration of human enlightenment or the means to achieve it, most of its short running time dedicated to the two moderately charming potheads riffing on bullfights and shooting the shit with folks they deem fascinating. Nor does Bad Hombres work as a travelogue, a Discovery Channel snapshot of the gorgeous state, lacking the needed production values and succinctness of such programs.
Towards the end, Matthew boasts that he’s read Hemingway and Tolstoy; I guess that gives weight and legitimacy to his closing arguments. “The happiness of men depends on the realization of their desires,” Matthew waxes poetically (and bitterly) about the futility of living in a “civilized” society. Yet his film doesn’t provide any coherent solution, save for a short-lived escape to put things in perspective. Even so: “I was still the same person when I came back,” Matt continues later. “Meanwhile there were tectonic shifts happening underneath.” He went through an existential crisis, a “dark night of the soul”. Perhaps that would’ve made for a more compelling doc. As it stands, Bad Hombres is more like Well-Meaning Gringos.
Bad Hombres: A Baja Adventure (2018) Written and Directed by Matthew Thomas Brown. Starring Matthew Thomas Brown, Pearson Achlich, Scott Netzel, Alec Petite.
4 out of 10