Jonathan Kaplan directs Madeleine Stowe, Drew Barrymore and Andie MacDowell in this western were four women go on the run and become embroiled with a gang of bandits.
Set up by a still very young Drew Barrymore to be a big budget feminist western. Three weeks into production and director Tamara Davis was fired, her footage scrapped, while a new screenplay was fashioned from the wreckage the ladies learnt to ride and shoot for a month and the black Bad Girl was cut out of the project. Bad Girls was never a release that was likely to shower itself in glory – working as neither a revisionist western nor as a gunslinging women’s picture. As an entertainment it fails. The story starts too quickly and struggles to settle, then it finally descends into a swirl of contrivances where each character gets caught and needs rescuing so that another can then be held captive until the credits come and there’s nobody left to have their turn tied up. The film is edited incredibly poorly. It often feels like the most important plot point of each sequence is missing from the mix or under emphasised. There is the occasional trace level hint at the lesbian longing between leads or at least bisexuality of certain characters but this is trampled on and ignored once a glut of men arrive. You’d say at least it was glossy but the narrative is so erratic and repetitive that it isn’t a particularly gentle watch. Madeleine Stowe is a proper movie star so she holds the centre of this with a steely efficiency. Drew Barrymore sparkles in a spiky sexpot role – enjoying wearing lacy scanties, leather waistcoats and a dusty derby with zero regrets. The other characters don’t really get enough meaningful screentime to solidify. Who knows if Tamara Davis’ original vision was any better? Strange that the actresses didn’t go to cowboy boot camp before the original start date? Kaplan isn’t in his element here but at least tries to reference The Wild Bunch when he can. Like that classic, we start with a temperance league and end with a Gatling gun. I suspect when moany middle aged men hear the words ‘female reboot’ and knee jerk kick off on the message boards this is the teenage disappointment they dread re-experiencing. Which is a nonsense, of course… but you can’t help but mourn just how hard this falls flat on its face…
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