Director Henry Saine’s schlock-fest Bounty Killer is a perfectly forgettable live-action graphic novel of the most juvenile proportions, and doesn’t it know it! Its ambition is as small as its budget, but hell if the filmmaker, cast and crew don’t seem more than enthusiastic in serving up the entirely nutrition-less titillation.
Part Road Warrior and part Dredd (which remains criminally under-seen.) Bounty Killer has zero delusions it’s telling a story the audience isn’t intimately familiar with: In Future America, the most powerful corporations enveloped the government before draining all resources, giving themselves huge bonuses and fleeing for parts unknown. The resulting post-apocalyptic-ish landscape gave rise to the Council of Nine that’s assembled its own judge, jury and executioners—in the form of Bounty Killers—to hunt down any white-collar criminals still trying to shake down the survivors of the wasteland.
Bounty Killers compete for celebrity, and none are more popular than Mary Death (Christian Pitre, a sultry revelation), former protégé and lover to legendary Killer, Drifter (Matthew Marsden). Drifter and Mary Death’s lives intersect once again when the Council inexplicably places a bounty on Drifter’s head, sending Drifter and buffoonish sidekick Jack (Barak Hardley) on the run for answers, as well as from a conflicted—but still willingly lethal—Mary Death. There are also some stock post-apocalypse tribal savage cannibals, a few boilerplate haunted pasts for the leads, and plenty of dumb one-liners lurking in wait for the the final shot of any given action sequence.
As a whole, Bounty Killer sports precious little to recommend to anyone looking for surprises or fresh twists—but that’s hardly the point. The ham-fisted political overtones are far less “sign-o-the-times” than merely a convenient surface on which to hang a setting. While it’s true that the best sci-fi speaks to some greater truth about the times in which we live, Saine and company are having too good a time making unadulterated exploitation cinema to bother aspiring to anything greater than the pursuit of their baser inclinations. Its broad, archetypal characters, washed-out color palette, fountains of Crunchberry Red blood, and hammy dialog underline a deliberately heightened stylistic choice. In fact, were it not for the animated opening credits, the actors’ hairstyles, and a couple of kinetic action sequences worthy of Jackie Chan (if he were into buckets of gore), one could easily mistake Bounty Killer for a lost Grindhouse-era well, if not classic, then surely a film worthy of inclusion in the retro Grindhouse movement played with by Quentin Tarantino, Eli Roth and Robert Rodriguez.
Not surprisingly, Bounty Killer makes an ideal travel buddy for such fare. Pair it with the likes of Machete or Hobo with a Shotgun, and you’ve got yourself a fantastic way to waste a Sunday afternoon.
Director: Henry Saine
Writers: Jason Dodson, Colin Ebeling, Henry Saine
Starring: Matthew Marsden, Kristanna Loken, Christian Pitre, Barak Hardley, Abraham Benrubi, Gary Busey, Beverly D’Angelo
Release Date: Sep. 6, 2013 (Limited; VOD)