DVD REVIEW: BAD LAND: ROAD TO FURY / CERT: 15 / DIRECTOR: JAKE PALTROW / SCREENPLAY: JAKE PALTROW / STARRING: MICHAEL SHANNON, NICHOLAS HOULT, ELLE FANNING, KODI SMIT-MCPHEE / RELEASE DATE: MAY 4TH
Bad Land: Road to Fury is set in a near future where everything has become barren wasteland and water has become the most precious and dwindling resource on the planet. The survivors of this catastrophe work hard and day to get life back into the ground and start afresh again, but are willing to do bad things to achieve it. Ernest Holm (Shannon) lives on this harsh frontier with his two children, Jerome (Smit-McPhee), and Mary (Fanning). He works hard day and night to defend his farm from bandits, whilst also working the supply routes, and hopes to rejuvenate the soil. However, Mary's two-faced boyfriend, Flem Lever (Hoult), has bigger schemes of his own, as he wants Ernest's land all for himself, and will go to any lengths to get it.
From the look of the DVD cover, it has the face of a sci-fi/adventure movie, which is very misleading as the film is actually closer to a gritty, character-driven, post-apocalyptic drama. That sounds great, but the film suffers a problem being that the film takes too much time setting up significant characters and story arcs. The four main actors are the film’s main focus, yet the supporting characters’ only purpose for existing is so they could move the plot forward and complete open storylines. The film goes at a somewhat normal pace, yet with the long, meandering shots, barren desert scenery and the melancholic mood that is felt throughout, audiences are going to think of the film as too much of a slow-burner and as a result, some people will find the whole experience quite boring after the first few minutes. This is a problem as, even though writer/director Jake Paltrow (brother of Gwyneth) tries to create compelling character arcs and storylines, they just end up becoming somewhat predictable and familiar. That’s a shame since that Giles Nuttgens’ cinematography is gorgeous to look at, and the depiction of a barren post-apocalyptic world is convincingly realised and ingeniously inventive.
Despite not having much character development, the performances from the four main leads were pretty solid and didn’t hamper the film’s drama in any dramatic way. Michael Shannon has always been a compelling and magnetic screen presence in everything he’s done, and here he’s again the film’s major draw. However, he’s not in the film much to make any great impact, and that’s a real shame seeing as the film loses its momentum whenever he’s off-screen. Kodi Smit-McPhee plays yet another character living in a desolated world after both The Road and Dawn of the Planet of the Apes, yet he gives a nuanced and heartfelt performance, and has a really good rapport with Shannon. Nicholas Hoult is perfectly solid as the antagonist, however Elle Fanning is the one that’s sadly (and majorly) side-lined here, and this is a real shame as Fanning is an extremely talented young actress that deserves a whole lot more than what she’s given here.
Overall, Bad Land: Road to Fury boats solid performances, despite how little screen time some get, the cinematography is beautiful to watch, and the film has a good idea at the heart of it. However, the film itself feels rather limp and lumpen in its execution, and only ends up being somewhat disappointing as a result.