Death to Corporate Scum
I love movies that detail the apocalypse. Whether that be the moments before the end of times, or the years after the fall of humankind. I love these types of films so much that several fall into the all time favorite category for me: the Road Warrior, Doomsday, the Divide, a Boy & His Dog, the Road, Night of the Comet, the 1978 Dawn of the Dead, Stakeland, Escape from New York... it’s a list that could fill several pages here, and one of films in which I can find at least something to like, whether it’s the grit of a single protagonist trudging through a grim wasteland, or the black humor found in others, lampooning consumerism and democracy for a more cynical audience.
At this point, it’s a difficult task to find anything truly original in a good majority of this type of film. What is Doomsday, after all, besides a derivative clone of the Road Warrior and 28 Days Later? Henry Saine’s Bounty Killer is another such film, most identifiably aping the Road Warrior, Doomsday, and the comedic touches given a Boy & His Dog with a little dash of Barb Wire or National Lampoon’s Beach Party at the Threshold of Hell (a much better film than it likely sounds).
Bounty Killer is the story of Drifter (Matthew Marsden) and Mary Death (Christian Pitre). Both are dubbed bounty killers, as they are tasked with eliminating the white collar criminals that upended the world and brought nuclear death upon the land during the “Corporate Wars”, an armageddon brought about by the usurpation of government by CEO’s and high profile bankers and Wall Street scoundrels and dreck. Having mentored Mary Death, Drifter himself is the original bounty killer, who comes to find that a bounty has been placed on him, making his objective one to clear his name and resume his chosen occupation of disposing of the filth. They will encounter gypsies and mercenaries along their way bent on stopping them, as well as a budding romance that does quite well to add to their depth. During this time, as well, Barak Hardley’s Jack will try to wile his way into the employ of Drifter as his gun caddy, a title denoting a job as absurd as it sounds.
Saine cut his teeth on the excellent indie comedy, the Last Lovecraft: Relic of Cthulhu, which was one of my favorite flicks of ’09, blending Lovecraftian horror with hysterical gags. He showed an excellent handle on his craft, and milked all that he could from a great cast, awesome script, and hard nosed direction. Bounty Killers, though, had been an idea with a genesis even before the aforementioned feature. Eventually becoming storyboarded as a proof of concept used to pitch the film, it became a graphic novel, and then a short film, before getting the funding and crew, not to mention cast, that he needed in order to bring the film to light. His writing, also, is quite good and he injects metaphors and analogies aplenty here, lambasting the largely corporate driven American government as well as Hollywood, painting both as villainous caricatures bent on exploiting the everyman. In other words, right up my alley.
Speaking of the cast, they are all uniformly good here. Marsden plays the straight man perfectly, offset by his comedic foil in Hardley’s Jack, who is a natural talent with an excellent grasp of comedy both subtle and absurd. Pitre’s Mary Death is allowed a ton of room as well, to go all out bringing a sexiness that contrasts the post-apocalyptic terrain and sets, as well as a phenomenal physicality not usually seen on a budget this low. Viewers might recognize Beverly De’Angelo here, along with rapper Eve who tries to assert her inner alpha warrior, and Kristanna Loken who embraces her sultry villainous side, as well as a mostly hysterical Gary Busey, exploiting his few talents to their utmost. They all have a wonderful sense of the script’s ideal tone and dive headlong into their respective roles.
I also need to mention the cinematography, which is rather awesome as well. David Conley’s camerawork is typically excellent, utilizing wide angels and vistas even-handedly, his understanding of natural light allowing the desert and locations to speak for themselves. Occasionally the shots are marred by sub-par CG, used sparingly in order to make their detriment as minimal as possible. He also does well to give the action an exceptionally cinematic feel.
In regard to the action, it is excellent. The choreography is fairly intricate when it comes to the fisticuffs, with brutal gunplay and awesomely staged chases. One of the chases in particular, will appear as either an homage to the Road Warrior and Doomsday films, or as blatant plagiarism. Which one will depend solely on how jaded you might be when it comes to the genre. The body count is crazy high, and their is no skimping on blood or practical effects, making each action scene gratifying and invigorating.
Bounty Killer won’t win any awards for originality, and the often purposely hamfisted dialog won’t turn any critics heads, but that’s really not the point. Henry Saine knows there’s a pre-existing demographic for this type of flick, and his aim here shoots true. What he brings to the table is a lovingly crafted homage to great cinema, gritty and funny, action packed and often gory but a love letter all the same. It’s made by a fan of the genre for other fans of the genre, which I think is something we could use more of instead of stifling audiences with glossed over, mega budget, super hero sausage fests led by A-list casts that simply phone in their performances just to get a hand in Hollywood’s cookie jar. As a movie lover, who appreciates a well crafted micro budget flick and indie stalwart, I respect the hell out of Saine and his crew and cast here, throwing their all into a neat little action flick that while not breaking new ground, respectfully throws down with best of them. Definitely recommended.