October 5, 2018 Molly (Movie Review)
Post-apocalyptic wastelands seem to be a popular setting, though they do not guarantee popular films. 2015’s Mad Max: Fury Road was a return to form for the series, while Turbo Kid came out in the same year and got a fair, 22-award-winning reception. Though the same could not be said for their successors Wastelander and Apocalypse Road.
However, Dutch Director Colinda Bongers (Hybris 2012, Love & Engineering 2014) and Writer/Co-Director Thijs Meuwese (Magistratus: Overtura 2012, Kill Mode 2018) combined elements from Max and Kid to produce Molly. Released on DVD/Blu-Ray on October 2, 2018 via Artsploitation Films, the titular character (played by Julia Batelaan: Photon 2015, Macho 2018) fights to survive in the wasteland. She has an edge over her competition with her archery skills, pet falcon, and inexplicable superpowers – but they also attract unwanted attention. Deacon (Joost Bolt: Flikken Maastricht 2010, Doktor Deen series) wants her to fight to the death in his pit and sends his gang out to capture her. Will Molly take them down or die trying?
Though it has a largely Dutch cast and crew, it was acted in English, so subs/dubs are not a worry. It will come with a feature-length commentary from both Bongers and Meuwese, as well as a 30-minute Making-of featurette. But is the film worth the DVD’s $14.99 asking price, let alone, the Blu-ray’s listed price of $19.99? Is it a worthy road warrior or is it merely a wastelander?
For films like these, American and Australian crews tend to have an advantage with location. Granted, upping sticks all the way to the desert is not exactly a jaunty ride, but it at least looks like a wasteland. It is a little harder to do in the Netherlands, where the only flight the budget will allow are drone shots of Maunsell Forts. Not that it is impossible to turn European grassland into a realm without rule, but many of the exterior shots take place in the woods or beachside knolls. They look empty enough, but the bright sun and saturated colors fail to make it look like a blasted hellscape; if anything, it looks like a rough backpacking holiday.
It does better with the interior locations, which look dark and dingy enough. Everyone is clad in their best Mad Max-esque attire. The fighting pit is less Thunderdome and more like the battleground from the Robot Wars series, but it is as good a place as any for miscreants like the Truth (Shilton Chelius: Held op Sok 2018) to fight in – though the fights themselves are largely awkward looking. Weirdly enough, the best ones seemed to require the least amount of choreography. There are a few fights that look like out-and-out brawls, desperate struggles for survival that work on screen. Once they get more complicated than that, like Molly’s melee against multiple menaces, it is not that great.
The scrappy camerawork adds to the brawls but little else. There are a lot of sequences where the camera slices each part of the action taking place into stages, then jump-cuts between them. It often does not change angles either, but stays in the same shot as it jumps through each stage. This makes sense when used sparingly, yet it is used too much here; basically, these parts are edited like an old YouTuber blog video. Quite a shame, as the quality is not that bad- about on par with a BBC Sci-Fi show.
As for the acting, it is largely so-so. The film takes a while to get going, and there is only so much Batelaan can do to make wandering look compelling. Once it does get up to speed, Batelaan does a fair job as the super-powered survivalist; it is not the most exciting performance, but she makes for a convincing-enough character. In contrast, Bolt chews up the scenery and leaves little for everyone else: there is a lot of personality on offer, though one wonders if it is a little forced too. Emma de Paauw makes her debut as Bailey, a child who Molly takes under her wing, and she does okay as far as child actors go, particularly first-time ones, though her performance will not be challenging late’ 80s Christian Bale anytime soon.
Overall, Molly is a cheap European take on 1985’s Mad Max Beyond Thunderdome. There is only one kid to worry about, the land looks nice for the post-apocalypse, and Tina Turner’s been replaced with a hammy white guy. The fights are a mixed bag at best, and it suffers from clunky camerawork. Yet there is some good drama here, as well as a few funny, if corny lines here and there. It feels like an earnest, Indie film making the most of what it has got. Thus, for these reasons, CrypticRock gives Molly 3 out of 5 stars.