Molly (2017) trailer: the first Dutch post-apocalypse action heroine

Well, I’m guessing it’s the first, anyway. Low-budget SF isn’t something for which Netherlands cinema has lately been renowned. Indeed, even for – science-fiction in general, Boy 7 is about the only other recent feature-length example coming to mind. So getting an email giving me a heads-up about it, pointing me in the direction of this trailer was a bit of a surprise. Here’s the synopsis:

“In a post apocalyptic world where bullets have become currency and medicine is rare, a clan of marauders uses a home brewed drug to turn innocent people into rabid beasts to have them fight each other in their fighting pits for their entertainment. When their leader discovers rumors of a girl with superpowers roaming the beach near their fort, he sends his best people out to capture her. Meanwhile, the girl, Molly, has discovered a young child, living alone in a cabin in the wasteland, waiting for the return of her parents, who are probably dead. Molly has to protect the child and fight of the marauders at the same time.”

Looking at the trailer, there are aspects to like, yet also reason for caution in any enthusiasm. It’s clearly rough around the edges, to the extent that it reminded me of mid-seventies Doctor Who, where every alien planet appeared to consist of the same gravel pit. To what extent this cheapness will be something an audience can overlook, is hard to tell from a relatively action-packed trailer. However, the only review I’ve found to date seemed bullish on that, saying, “The film wears its low budget on its sleeves, but then proceeds to see what level of awesomeness it can achieve with this.” Ok, I’m mollified – or even molly-fied, hohoho. Although I do remain a bit concerned that the film-makers opted for English. While this decision makes sense from a sales perspective, I’ve seen too many horrible cases where people are clearly “acting in a second language,” and it can be an unwelcome distraction too.

The positives include an appealing grunge aesthetic, with this particular landscape clearly influenced by Mad Max, and offering some interesting use of colour palettes. But rather than the supermodel (if slightly limb-deficient) looks of Charlize Theron, we’ve got the far more “normal” appearance of Julia Batelaan, who is hardly the epitome of post-apocalypse chic. Indeed, she looks like she should be doing lighting tech at her school drama club, rather than swinging a sword against a pack of feral enemies. The review also suggests this down-home approach carries through into the combat: “Fights turn into gritty wrestling matches rather than kung-fu ballets, and realism gets combined with inventive camerawork. Molly often wins through sheer perseverance and stamina rather than skill, and indeed, her worst wounds are sometimes self-inflicted through clumsiness.”

All this, and she’s got a pet falcon or something, too. I am officially intrigued, so stay tuned for a review here, providing the makers are able to secure some kind of distribution. Hopefully, that will be the case – because the world clearly needs more Dutch, post-apocalypse, action-heroines.

De Prooi

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“As flat as a Dutch landscape.”

deprooiThe life of 17-year-old Valerie (Bouten) is turned upside down when her mother is killed in an apparent hit-and-run accident. But that’s nothing compared to the post-mortem discovery that her mother had never had any children. So who was her real mother? As Valerie tries to pick at the scab of her own history, it becomes increasingly clear that someone does not want the past to be revealed, and is prepared to go to any lengths to make sure she doesn’t open any doors that should remained closed. But who has the most to lose from the skeleton in the closet? Her mother’s former employer, a local lawyer? The garage owner, who¬† is in her mother’s address-book, but professes angrily never to have heard of her? The creepy next-door neighbour Ria (Fluitsma), who moonlights in a peep show? The ever-so helpful member of the local constabulary, Inspector Mellema (Leysen)? Or even Valerie’s boyfriend, who seems to have an agenda of his own. Though since he’s a teenage boy, that might just be getting into her pants.

This seems to be going for a Dutch giallo feel in some ways, most obviously at the end, in a lengthy sequence where Valerie is pursued through her house by a masked assailant. But it never reaches the necessary levels of nightmarish excess trawled by the best Italian examples, and comes over mostly as listless and uninteresting. Indeed, this could almost pass for a TV movie, outside of Bouten’s fondness for taking her top off, and the previously-mentioned sojourn to a peep-show in the Amsterdam red-light district [which brought back some memories from my wasted youth, having visited said area of iniquity during my college days, around the mid-eighties era when this was made!]. But, like a good number of the other threads here, this subplot doesn’t go anywhere, and the film spends too much time on its red herrings, especially when compared to establishing the motivations of the real culprit. As a result, these come over barely cooked, and not very convincing when revealed.

Bouten does actually make for a half-decent heroine, pursuing the truth about her own background with a steely determination that’s quite endearing, no shortage of personal risk, and not a great deal of help from anyone. Certainly, her boyfriend is a waste of space, and Mellema seems far less committed to the investigation than Valerie. Perhaps fans of Veronica Mars might be more inclined to appreciate this: I’m not among their number – though, admittedly, this is as much due to ignorance as any aversion – and this made almost no impression on me.

Dir: Vivian Pieters
Star: Maayke Bouten, Erik de Vries, Johan Leysen, Marlous Fluitsma
a.k.a. Death in the Shadows, the title under which it shows up in a couple of those monster 50-movie packs, e.g. Suspense Classics or Pure Terror.

The Gang of Oss

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“A Dutch semi-treat”

gang-od-ossI never really think of the Dutch as the organized crime type, but this film convinces me otherwise, based as it is on actual events from just before World War II. Oss is a town in the Southern half of the Netherlands and, it appears, everyone there is on the take one way or another, from insurance scams to larger scale shenanigans, all the way up to the mayor and the local priest. The federal government has sent military police to the town to keep order, but that only rankles the locals, for the cops are Protestants and they are Catholics. Johanna (Hoeks) hopes to escape a life of crime, planning to open a restaurant when her husband, Ties (Schoenaerts), gets out of jail. But it’s not as easy as it seems. Her spouse is happy to pimp her out, and local boss and Ties’s uncle, Wim de Kuiper (Musters), drags him back into his old ways. When Ties tries to force Johanna to have an abortion, she hatches a plan to have him killed by her lover (and client), Jan, although the plan only puts her deeper in the clutches of de Kuiper. But when she discovers just how low he is prepared to go, she decides he and the rest of his cronies are going down.

I really liked Johanna as a character. She’s comfortable enough with her position in life (even if normally, it’s on her back!), but still aspires to rise above her lowly origins – and do so honestly, unlike the rest of the inhabitants. Her husband is basically a Grade-A shit, but she eventually finds the resolve to stand up against him, and take control of her own destiny. Admittedly, you wonder why it takes quite so long, given she’s being forced to act as a prostitute by him – but, on the other hand, she quite happily refers to herself a “Johanna the slut”, and appears to come from a lineage of similarly-inclined women. It’s a nicely grey morality, and the same is true for most of the other characters; outside of Ties, they all have their own justifications for what they do.

I suspect some of the local atmosphere is probably lost outside of Holland – apparently, there’s a particular accent/dialect used, which doesn’t come across in the subtitles at all. And, as noted, it’s just odd to see the Dutch, whom I’ve generally found to be polite and well-mannered almost to a fault, killing each other, being brutal, and generally behaving in a manner more befitting Chicago during Prohibition than the south Netherlands. That’s less the film’s problem than mine, though there isn’t too much here which will be novel to anyone with a working knowledge of American mafia films, though having its focus on a woman, is certainly laudable. That, along with its strong local flavour, are enough to make this worth a watch, though outside of Hoeks’ strong performance, there likely isn’t much of long-term note.

Dir: Andre van Duren
Star: Sylvia Hoeks, Matthias Schoenaerts, Marcel Musters