A girl living alone in a post apocalyptic wasteland finds herself hunted down by marauders who want her to fight in their fighting pit for their entertainment.
Emma de Paauw
I don’t use it often, but when I feel it’s truly necessary, I’ll open the locked cabinet, dust it off and proudly place it at the top of the review.
I am happy to re-present this line of dialogue from the classic 1981 film, Mommie Dearest.
Joan Crawford, played by the inimitable Faye Dunaway disgustedly holds up a script and says to another character, “It’s not good!”
And there you have it.
The new post-apocalyptic sci-fi film Molly follows Molly (Julia Batelaan) as she attempts to survive in a foreboding and unforgiving land. She scavenges, and tries to keep away from rabid, infected humans, known as “supplicants”. She must also keep a distance from the cronies of an insane ringmaster named Deacon (Joost Bolt) – who operates a sadistic sort of fight club. Deacon wants Molly in his clutches, so he can exploit her in the fight ring – taking advantage of her supernatural, telekinetic powers. When Molly happens upon a deserted little girl named Bailey (Emma de Paauw), there is a connection and Molly will do whatever she can to keep Bailey safe.
The film’s big problem – putting aside technical shortcomings (I’ll get to that in a moment), was the blatant disregard here, for basic, decent storytelling.
Other than the fact that Molly was obviously some sort of experiment, and that she liked to drink milk prior to the end of the world, we get nothing about who she is. When she goes on this excursion to rescue Bailey, there is nothing provided early in the script to support why she would go out of her way to help a little girl she just met. ‘cause the girl gave her a can of food? I guess. The film had already established that Molly was a loner and could take care of herself (other than the time she bathed in a river with nary a weapon within reaching range – what was that all about?) And this journey to rescue Bailey, is the entire point of the film. Audiences need something to go on. To put your characters through the ringer with no real motive – that’s just bad writing. And how are viewers supposed to find sympathy in a situation like that?
In the review of another recently screened film, I called out the “let’s put a little girl in here to hopefully drum up automatic sympathy”. No. You have to earn it. Throwing a helpless child into the mix, just because? It’s flimsy. And it’s lazy.
Performances run the gamut from barely acceptable to just plain awful. All of the supporting performances bring nothing to the table but scenery-chewing and a painful 2-dimensional mess. Of note – in the just plain awful performance category – the work of the film’s “ringmaster” – Joost Bolt.
As the titular character, Julia Batelaan is completely un-engaging. I couldn’t have cared less about the character’s well-being. And while this is certainly a shortcoming in the story/script itself, it seems that Batelaan wasn’t well-equipped enough as an actor to overcome the terrible script. And it can be done, folks. It can be done.
The film is nothing but a non-stop fight sequence with a never-ending avalanche of character grunting. And while that’s fine – if that’s what the intention was all along – then by gum, you better make these constant fight scenes the best they can be. There’s a term in fight choreography or blocking actors in a scene. It’s “quarter-time”. Meaning, when intricate moves are being learned, actors/stunt-people are asked to slow things down – first get it right in something akin to slow motion, before going all out when the cameras roll. In basically every fight scene, I felt like the actors and stunt experts never went full out. It felt as if we were watching some sort of fight rehearsal. Other than a couple of nifty stunts (bodies held over someone’s head and tossed aside), I didn’t buy any bit of this. And if this is the central focus of your entire film, well – that’s a fail.
Perhaps “hate” is too strong a word to use when describing the cinematography, but that is the level of distaste I had for the film’s overall look. Outdoors, it all looked okay, but once the film went inside the sets – it all fell apart.
Obvious edits between scenes (and into a new set) are cleverly done, but this editing trick wore out its welcome by the 20th time it was used. And I could hardly tolerate the constantly moving camera. A static shot every now and again would have been a welcome break.
I will admit that some of the set dressing/design was good (namely Bailey’s tent/hut), but once we get into “the pit” – where the fights take place – it looked a little too homemade. Even the blood splatters on the arena floor felt too “planned” (hmmmm… like the choreography). But I do believe that if the interior lighting would have been a little more detailed, the obviousness of some of the set design faults could have been minimized.
Molly was one of those occasions where the score worked overtime to help build suspense. It never quite matched the “practiced” fight choreography – fighting hard to amp things up, when what is happening on-screen is only trudging along.
Borrowing heavily from Mad Max Beyond Thunderdome, George A. Romero’s Land of the Dead and every other post-apocalyptic thriller of the past two decades – Molly ultimately feels pointless. There’s nothing new here. There’s nothing interesting here. There’s nothing worthwhile here.
I’m sorry, but I have to give Molly the kiss of death – a ½ star rating.
I can find basically nothing of merit here. No real plot, nothing but the most basic of characterizations, mostly sub-par production design and a whole heckuva lot of grunting.
The sad thing is that I’ve reviewed many a solid film under the distribution power of Artsploitation – Fever, Red Christmas and The Devil Lives Here are prime examples – but Molly has to be one of the worst I’ve seen under the Artsploitation banner.
Bottom line? Molly – “It’s not good!”
The film is available on VOD outlets as well as on DVD/Bluray – in case you want to confirm what I’ve already laid out on the table for you.