MOLLY (2017)

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Directed by: ,
Written by:
Starring: , ,

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Ah the post apocalyptic wasteland, my old friend. It’s always nice to see you in a feature film. Whether it’s the promise of ‘two men enter one man leaves’ or the idea of an emotionless army of killer machines, there’s a lot of promise to this tantalising near (or far) future location. With so many possible cultural shifts or technological changes there’s an endless supply of potential in such a setting. It’s a place in which the sands of time, and of the land can be moulded into any shape. A location in which the only limits are imaginations of the writers and directors involved. Of course there may also be limits to the film making skills of the minds available. So when it comes to Molly, which includes obvious nods to the films of George Miller (or perhaps Kevin Reynolds) and has a colour palette suggesting it could be another Turbo Kid, the results are unfortunately a missed opportunity.

While the choice of protagonist initially appears to be mildly interesting, the eponymous wanderer Molly (Julie Batelaan) soon turns out to be a one note teenager. One who is equipped with a series of clichés from other movies instead of any kind of real personality. Her arsenal includes a hand crafted bow and arrow, a revolver (which is only used on special occasions since cartridges are scarce) and even some mind bending psychic powers that flare up when things get too stressful. She even has a cute pet (some kind of eagle) that warns her of danger every so often, but only if it’s convenient to the plot. She can fight and shoot and use knives. But so few of these details are actually engaging when the film makers use such a kitchen sink approach, never properly fleshing out her characterisation or these abilities.

In some ways her personality can be put down to living in the wild of course. She spends most of her time scavenging what seems to be a few empty wartime defences at the seaside. They all seem to be filled with the same dessicated corpses and empty tin cans – begging the question of how anything is edible and why she’s searching places that so few people can inhabit. On the other hand the sea views are pretty nice. Maybe too nice. There’s a strange lack of insect life swarming about the remains she comes across. It’s all a bit too clean and far too lush. Occasionally bandits or crazed brain damaged ‘supplicants’ attack Molly but she usually despatches them pretty easily. What happened to the human race is never clear. There’s a neat establishing shot depicting the beaches before and after this event at least. But someone later remarks that this all happened just two years earlier, which raises even more questions.

There’s a real lack of world-building, which extends to the villains of the piece. They live in an offshore oil rig of some sort and spend all their time betting on supplicant death matches. You can picture how the film makers imagined all of this in their pre-production plans. A huge sandy wasteland where killers roam the shores of a toxic sea. A sinister industrial lair in which the survivors are reduced to savages watching brutal gladiator games. Grand stuff. But the final results feel more like a children’s television show than a gritty post apocalyptic nightmare. Whether it’s scenery chewing actors who don’t speak English as a first language or a lot of endless recycled corridors, this is all pretty amateur. Of course the level of competency isn’t always a roadblock to entertainment value if there’s enough charm and flair on show. But here that just isn’t the case.

At times it seems as though civilisation has completely broken down. Currency has been replaced by bullets and families take shelter in rickety beach huts. But at the same time some of the characters use futuristic guns and even robotic power arm type weapons. Is this technology all battery powered, and if so how? Why do they have hologram devices but nobody ever uses antibiotics? Are these fighting warriors supposed to be slaves or just zombies? It’s pretty nonsensical, but I guess this is a story in which the hero’s spectacles never break during fight scenes and she bathes naked but leaves all her knives several metres from the river bank. It could be all tongue-in-cheek of course. However, outside a few badly acted comic relief characters the tone needed to transform this kind of material is all wrong.

Purely as an action movie this had some real potential. The fight scenes are staged effectively enough for what they are. If only the psychic powers that conveniently save Molly in combat were developed or made any sense. There are a few flashbacks to explain away their origins but there’s never a sense of progression. She’s in desperate need of a learning curve or even just a simple character arc. Without rules or consistency the film just becomes a slog as a stream of goons come at her, before she becomes entangled in a child in peril sub-plot. These two ingredients – telekinesis and a kidnapped girl – should have been the backbone to the narrative. But it all feels like a series of diversions rather than a real storyline, as it devolves into a slow and clunky hallway fight that takes up the whole third act for some reason. The Raid or Oldboy this ain’t.

Ultimately some of these comparisons are pretty unfair for an small scale indie flick with its heart in the right place. They took time to plan all this out and build a few rusty corridors for a villain’s hideout, and it’s visually appealing at times. But a series of second hand tropes aren’t enough to hold up weak performances and a thin script that often tries to be clever but just isn’t developed enough. Maybe they could have expanded on why there are science fiction gadgets in some scenes but not others. They could have explained how the oil rig gambling community actually functions, or developed other parts of this world. But unfortunately it never takes these elements and makes something worthwhile out of them. Despite some promising ideas in the end this is far less than the sum of these parts.

Rating: ★★★★☆☆☆☆☆☆

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About Mocata 149 Articles
A sucker for classic epics, 80s science fiction and fantasy kitsch, horror, action, animation, stop motion, world cinema, martial arts and all kinds of assorted stuff and nonsense. If you enjoy a bullet ballet, a good eye ball gag or a story about time travelling robots maybe we can be friends after all.

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