review by AARON ALLEN
Directed by Henry Saine
Written by Jason Dodson, Colin Ebeling, and Henry Saine
Starring: Christian Pitre, Matthew Marsden, Barak Hardley, Kristanna Loken, Abraham Benrubi, Gary Busey
BOUNTY KILLLER is a deeply entertaining post-apocalyptic action comedy that's Mad Max meets Grindhouse by way of The Ice Pirates. In Bounty Killer, director Henry Saine has found a winning "popcorn movie" recipe for silly escapist entertainment that outpaces many of its higher-budgeted contemporaries.
In the near future, mega corporations hijack the world's governments and wage a brutal war against each other that plunges the world into an apocalypse. 20 years later, the wastelands now belong to the Bounty Killers. Following the devastation caused by the Corporate Wars, a new order has arisen to justice to the corporations: The Council of Nine. The Council of Nine issues death warrants for the world's white collar criminals guilty of destroying the world with their unregulated greed. Executing these warrants are the heroes of the wastelands: the Bounty Killers, freelance assassins and mercenaries who roam the wastes and compete for fame and fortune as they collect the bloodied neckties of free market fugitives. At the top of the bounty killer game, Mary Death (Christian Pitre) -- a heavily armed assassin in a stylish stewardess outfit and thigh high Go-Go boots -- rips through the deserts of the wasteland in her yellow mustang collecting bounties and signing autographs for her adoring fans. She competes with her former lover and sometimes-collaborator Drifter (Matthew Marsden), who eschews the celebrity Mary has attained as a Bounty Killer to instead focus on his mysterious personal vendetta against the corporate powers of the past.
|Mary Death's the life of the party|
But when the Council of Nine one day issues a death warrant on Drifter himself, the fragile relationship between Drifter and Mary is shattered. Accompanied by his number one fan and new gun caddy Jack (Barak Hardley), Drifter must make his way through a radioactive wasteland overrun by savage Gypsies in order to reach the Council of Nine and clear his name. But Mary Death is hot on his trail, and she's not exactly sure what she's going to when she finds him. Will she kiss him or kill him?
|Gypsies: The #1 threat in the wasteland|
Shot in a mere 18 days with fight scenes filmed in just 2-4 hours, Bounty Killer is an impressive achievement in the fast-paced world of indie action cinema. Generally marked by a delightful silliness, Bounty Killer never drags for a moment, and Saine's direction is funky, frenetic, and full of stylish flourishes. Each action scene is exciting and inventive, including my favorite set piece in which an army of Gypsies rocket across the desert in hot rods as they chase our heroes atop a streamline trailer stagecoach that's pulled by motorcycles instead of horses. Ambitious and funky as hell, Bounty Killer also features an outstanding supporting cast including Kristanna Loken (Terminator 3) as the leader of the corporate elite, musician and actor Eve as the leader of the savage skull-faced Gypsies, Hollywood wild man Gary Busey as a corporate thug, and Beverly D'Angelo (the mom from all National Lampoon's Vacation movies) as the proprietor of a saloon and brothel called The Thirsty Beaver.
While Matthew Marsden is fairly dry and often disappointing as our bland hero, Bounty Killer boasts two absolutely standout performances. First, Barak Hardley is hilariously lovable as Jack, Drifter's gun caddy. His thick-rimmed glasses, shaggy mop of air, scruffy beard and slightly gaped teeth give him an endearing Muppet-like quality that is only accentuated by his lovable Teddy Bear personality and exasperated performance as an out-of-his-depth bounty killer fanboy. Director Henry Saine said he had to fight very hard with the producers to cast Hardley (whom he had cast in his previous film The Last Lovecraft), and it was clearly a battle well won! The comic sidekick to Marsden's emotionally shallow hero, Hardley steals every memorable scene as Drifter's wannabe best-buddy and partner.
|Oh, how your bubble's gonna burst|
When you meet another nurse
She'll be driving in a hearse
The second breakout role goes to Christian Pitre as Mary Death. Although Mary Death is a bundle of pulp fiction stereotypes and male exploitation fantasies, Pitre finds a core of humanity and vulnerability in her role as the death-defying bounty killer with a bloody past. When Warner Bros. eventually begins casting a Justice League feature film, I think they could have a potential Wonder Woman here with Pitre. As Mary Death, she certainly shows she has the brains, the brawn, and the beauty to play a moral yet violently uncompromising Amazonian Warrior Princess. She seamlessly slips right into Bounty Killer's comic book sensibilities, so it's not hard to imagine that Bounty Killer could be her springboard to even more iconic sci-fi / fantasy roles.
Bounty Killer slayed the audience at Toronto After Dark at its Toronto Premiere last week with its pop fusion of light social commentary and heavy action/comedy. Go check it out on VOD right now, and grab yourself a copy of this independent action bonanza when it hits DVD and Blu-ray later this October.