“A taste of anti-paradise”
Somehow, I get the feeling I should have liked this more than I did. The elements are all these – high-energy, hyper-violence and no shortage of style – but, somehow, the whole felt rather less than the sum of its parts. It’s a post-apocalyptic scenario, after the corporate wars have pretty much trashed the planet, and the Council of Nine hand out rewards for the deaths of white-collar criminals. These are collected by the titular hunters, the best being Drifter (Marsden) and Mary Death (Pitre) – the latter is a star, followed by fans and paparazzi, much to the chagrin of the former. However, the Council suddenly issue a kill notice for Drifter; he heads to confront them and sort out the “mistake”, with Mary in hot pursuit, intent on collecting the bounty. Of course, and after quite a bit of the old ultra-violence, Drifter and Mary team up, to take down the real bad guys.
An adaptation of a graphic novel, it does, at least, a better job of capturing the grindhouse philosophy than the limp Machete Kills. The inspiration – actually, it’s more shameless plagiarism – is more Mad Max 2, particularly in its stubbly hero and an extended chase sequence across the desert, in which he’s chased by a pack of nomads with painted faces. That’s perhaps the problem, because Drifter was a great deal less interesting than Mary Death to me; Marsden delivers a bland performance, over so much screen-time that this almost didn’t meet the necessary minimum standards for GWG qualification. I could also have done without the embarrassingly blunt attempts at “satire”, which feel like they came from an earnest late-night session at a liberal arts college. It’s not clever and it’s not funny.
But the bits that work, work quite nicely. There’s a great scene where Drifter is being yelled at in a soundproof office by the lead villainess (Loken), who is oblivious to the mayhem being wreaked by Mary on the other side of the glass. Indeed, virtually every time Ms. Death is on screen, the interest level increases significantly, and not merely for the obvious reasons. Pitre struts, stomps and raised the sardonic eyebrow to such impressive effect, that you wonder why you’ve never heard of her before. If Drifter is reheated leftovers of every post-apocalypse hero from the past 20 years, Death gives us something new. Hopefully, if there’s any sequel, Marsden will be “unavailable”, and the makers can concentrate much more on the heroine.
Dir: Henry Saine
Star: Matthew Marsden, Christian Pitre, Barak Hardle, Kristanna Loken