Sunday 31 December 2017

Movie Review: Bad Girls (1994)

A western with four cowgirls as the main protagonists, Bad Girls has a potentially intriguing gender-bending concept but nothing else to offer.

In the wild west, Cody (Madeleine Stowe), Anita (Mary Stuart Masterson), Eileen (Andie MacDowell) and Lily (Drew Barrymore) are friends and whores with hearts of gold having fallen on hard times through no fault of their own. When Cody kills a rough customer, the other three girls rescue her from a hanging and all four go on the run with Pinkerton detectives giving chase. Anita believes she may have a land claim in Oregon, and Cody offers to invest her life savings to help start a sawmill business on the property.

But the cash withdrawal transaction is interrupted by a hold-up committed by the outlaw Kid Jarrett (James Russo) and his gang, and he takes off with Cody's money while Eileen is jailed in the ensuing chaos. Cody and Jarrett share a history, and she is intent on tracking him down and reclaiming her money. Stranger Josh McCoy (Dermot Mulroney) is also interested in finding Jarrett for revenge reasons, while Eileen establishes a relationship with land owner William Tucker (James LeGros).

Bad Girls is an obvious attempt to recreate the appeal of 1988's Young Guns, this time with four photogenic women in the lead roles. Whatever the original intent, the production quickly ran into trouble. Original director Tamra Davis was fired a few days into the shoot and replaced by Jonathan Kaplan, the script was rewritten on the fly, and the lack of cohesion is painfully evident on the screen.

Stuck somewhere between a women's buddy movie and misplaced aspirations to mimic The Wild Bunch complete with a Gatling gun making a late appearance, Bad Girls gallops in quicksand: the harder the film tries to be meaningful, the quicker it sinks. The women are plastic characters provided with one-line backstories, and then left alone to look pouty pretty. The villain is straight out of those bad Spaghetti Westerns where the baddie laughs maniacally at...nothing in particular.

The plot has enough holes to make that Gatling gun proud, and the screenwriters are almost visible to the side of the action frantically dreaming up next morning's scene -- which of the woman shall we place in peril next?!

Given the creative carnage around them the four actresses do their best, but they are further handicapped by flawless hair, perfect make-up, flattering clothes and an apparent abundance of soap throughout: they are made to look gorgeous no matter what trouble they are in, undermining any pretensions of realism.

The energetic climactic shootout injects a sudden dose of adrenaline, but it's too late: by then the film's corpse is well and truly cold.

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