Bounty KillerReviewed By Jay Seaver
Posted 07/24/13 14:43:30
(Worth A Look)
SCREENED AT THE 2013 FANTASIA INTERNATIONAL FILM FESTIVAL: The world may be a ruined desert in "Bounty Killer", complete with the usual settlements built entirely out of wreckage, elaborately made-up bands of wandering savages, and the like, but it's also one where the one percent have jetpacks. That's a fair way to describe this movie, I think - built around a "Mad Max" template but with a bit of "The Rocketeer" at its center.The world is a wasteland in the aftermath of the Corporate Wars, and the Council of Nine is looking to clear the slate by taking out all white-collar criminals. These "bounty killers" are celebrities, most notably Drifter (Matthew Marsden) and frequent partner Mary Death (Christian Pitre). But just after they've brought in an office party's worth of execs, new bounties are sent out - one for Drifter's source, and one for Drifter himself. And if having Mary chase him while trying to clear his name isn't bad enough, Drifter and new "gun caddy" Jack LeMans (Barak Hardley) run afoul of a band of "gypsies" led by Mocha Sujata (Eve).
As you can see, there's some fun twists on the standard post-apocalyptic set-up there, and that doesn't even get into how Drifter and Mary are celebrities in this world (which, even more than usual, seems to have a weird economy, in that beer is rare compared to bullets and gasoline and there are glossy fan magazines for Mary to autograph). It's not anything close to great satire and we've seen businessmen with guns before, but it does let the filmmakers give the movie a laid-back, humorous vibe without it really seeming like a parody of its often-grim genre.
Plus, it's undeniably satisfying to watch jerks in suits get their heads blown off. Maybe that specific way of killing someone off only happens once or twice, but the movie is packed with bloody, over-the-top action and has no particular interest in getting a PG-13. So there's fake blood aplenty and lots of mayhem, but it tends to be the result of fast-paced, exciting action that is in general pretty nicely staged. While there are quite a few very enjoyable sequences, director Henry Saine and company kick it up a notch or two for the big finale: There's a lot going on, but there's a smoothness to how things move from A to B to C and funny bits alternate with enjoyably decisive action that can have the audience feeling a bit giddy.
A cast that seems to be having a lot of fun doesn't hurt at all. Matthew Marsden is pretty decent as the stubbly tough guy; he can make jokes and even have them made at his expense without it feeling too much like the filmmakers are mocking the character type. Barak Hardley throws himself into sidekick duty, maybe a little too hard - it's easy to want Jack dialed back at first, and even a bit after he and Drifter start to click - but when he and the script are on the same page, he's a genuine riot. Christian Pitre seems to be having the most fun of anyone as Mary Death, giving an enthusiastic physical performance while also not coming off as just a pretty face in between; she makes Mary's impulsive, temperamental nature feel like part of her character and not opposed to her character's charisma. There are fun turns by Kevin McNally and Abraham Benrubi as well, and a few more well-known faces in smaller roles: Eve makes for a suitably vicious "gypsy" queen, and Beverly D'Angelo pops up as the owner of a bar that sells skin as much as alcohol. She's at that point in her career, and it says something about Gary Busey's that he's not even playing the alpha villain here, but middle-management to a fair Kristanna Loken.
It shouldn't surprise anybody who sees the animated bits of the opening and transitions that Bounty Killer is also a graphic novel, but it is a bit unusual that director Henry Saine is also the illustrator of that book, which he and co-writer Jason Dodson also scripted; they also had the same jobs on a 2011 short film that also featured Pitre and Hardley (though other parts have been recast). Unlike other attempts at transmedia franchises, the film doesn't feel like it has many parts that particularly need filling in, and Saine's skills as an illustrator come in handy, whether setting the tone for the animation, coming up with spiffy graphic design to sell the world, or just knowing how to use the frame and design good action. A lot of shots feel like comic panels, but not at the expense of this playing as a quick, snappy movie.And while it may have far fewer jetpacks than the introduction implies (just the one, sadly), it's got classic cars, quality action, and a willingness to have fun without running its genre down. Folks smile in this movie - something you don't often see in the genre - and it is in fact contagious.
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