April Mullen’s entry in the biker-gang subgenre packs quite a few punches.
By Jorge Ignacio Castillo
THE PLOT: Badsville revolves around a greaser gang, the Kings, and their presumed leader, Wink (newcomer Ian McLaren). Following the death of his mother, Wink begins to consider leaving town. After all, there is no much of a future in a place called Badsville.
Wink’s decision doesn’t sit well with the rest of his posse, particularly with his lieutenant, Benny (Benjamin Barrett), who harbors an ill-advised crush on him. The arrival of Suzy (Tamara Duarte) pushes Wink’s plans into high gear, but a rival gang and the scorned Benny are likely to get in his way.
CRITIQUE: Another pulpy concoction by April Mullen (closer to 88 than to Below Her Mouth), Badsville is a fun genre entry that shows growing confidence and skill. The script (by McLaren and Barrett) follows traditional biker-gang-movie beats for the top half, but from midpoint on, it stubbornly refuses to obey expectations.
While the setup is not particularly original, Badsville is coherent and cohesive. At 97 minutes long, there is not enough time for world building. The rival gang feels underwritten, although a terrific turn by Robert Knepper as the Aces’ patriarch almost makes up for it.
· Simone Cilio’s score is rich and wide-ranging, perfect for the seedy mise-en-scene.
· For a first-time feature lead, Ian McLaren delivers a confident, strong performance. Barrett, Duarte and Knepper also strike the right notes given the hyper-reality setting.
· The characters’ quirks (and there are plenty) bring something to the table, as opposed to oh-so-many-movies in which the weirdness feels fake and distracting.
· The hardboiled dialogue is awfully close to parody, and every “daddy-o” pushes it closer to the edge.
· The relationship between Suzy and Wink is extremely rushed. This would be fine if the filmmakers weren’t expecting the audience to believe this is a true romance (see what I did there?).
· While there is a clear effort to create an emotional connection with the characters, it never quite gels. Thankfully, the film is entertaining enough it doesn’t matter.
RATING (CANADIAN CURVE): ***1/2
Badsville opens this Friday, January 26th, at the Carlton (Toronto). Available on VOD February 6th.
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