Badland Image

Badland

By Alex Saveliev | November 1, 2019

Justin Lee accomplishes something quite rare with his latest Western Badland: he pays heart-on-the-sleeve tribute to good ol’ Westerns of yore, while unabashedly sustaining a tongue-in-cheek, B-flick tone. The pleasant surprise is that the filmmaker – who wrote and directed the feature – seems to have learned from the mistakes of his previous efforts (Big Legend, Any Bullet Will Do) and delivers a perfectly adequate, at times, even enthralling cinematic ride. Considering the recent deluge of Westerns – Slow West, Bone Tomahawk, Never Grow Old, The Sister Brothers, to name a few – that’s quite a feat. Badland may not reach the subversive heights of those features, but it would hold its own in a Mexican standoff.

“…spends his time traversing the titular hellish badlands, populated by scoundrels – Confederate war criminals…”

Mathias Breecher (Kevin Makely) is a detective (“too calculated and professional” to be a full-blown bounty hunter), seeking to achieve redemption for his sins (the Breecher/preacher parallel is not unintentional). He spends his time traversing the titular hellish badlands, populated by scoundrels – Confederate war criminals, whom Breecher tracks down and brings to violent justice. One of them happens to be the dying Reginald Cooke (Bruce Dern), father of the self-sufficient and caring land owner Sarah (Mira Sorvino). “He’s living on borrowed time,” she tells Breecher, reawakening his deadened heart. Our hero ends up sparing the brutalities and staying instead to see Reginald’s last dying breath. In the meantime, he may or may not fall for the heroine, while protecting her treasured land from the sleazy Fred Quaid (James Russo).

Believe it or not, that’s just the first hour of Lee’s two-hour feature. Breecher proceeds to leave Sarah and go after his next target: Sheriff Huxley Wainwright (Jeff Fahey), a despot ruling over the most Western of towns called Knife’s Edge. Badland ends with a “good old-fashioned dime novel showdown,” “badge against badge.” Lest I forget, there’s also Breecher’s “frenemy,” Harlan (Wes Studi), who informs Breecher, in a bit of foreshadowing: “Sometimes soon, Matthias, we shall exchange fire with one another. It is inevitable.”

Badland (2019)

Directed and Written by Justin Lee

Starring Kevin Makely, Mira Sorvino, Bruce Dern, Wes Studi, Jeff Fahey, Trace Adkins, Tony Todd, James Russo, etc.

Movie score: 6/10

Badland Image

"…holster your guns and venture into this Badland with confidence."

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  1. Dan D says:

    This movie was as bad as it could be. Slow and boring, embarrassing dialogs, horrible dark camera unable to catch the beauty of the west as if all filming was done in the late cloudy afternoon. The rhythm is monotonous. It’s just unwatchable. But the worst of it all was it’s cheap attack on confederacy trying to rewrite the history, implying the black politicians were in power chasing confederate war criminal responsible for slavery. This was as repulsive as simplistic stupidity of Tarantino imagining Brett Pitt scalping German soldiers just because they were German. As if all Confederate soldiers were genetically worth of wiping of the Earth in an act of demented vengeance.
    This guy, this whoever he wants to be, is just weird. I had to put him on my list of suspects. I really don’t know if he has some very subversive political agenda or he is just as dumb as some Harley biker who walks slow, doesn’t wash, talks in deep voice, and thinks all women love him.
    Needless to say, I couldn’t watch this movie to the end.

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