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Bad Land: Road to Fury


Stars: Kodi Smit-McPhee, Nicholas Hoult, Elle Fanning, Michael Shannon, Robert Hobbs, Aimee Mullins, Liah O'Prey

Director: Jake Paltrow

We seem to have been bombarded recently with films set in the future and here's another, set in America (actually shot in South Africa) where water is in desperately short supply, especially if you're a farmer, Holm (Shannon), whose land is desperately in need of it.

With crops failing to grow on the parched earth, Shannon makes a living with the help of his teenage son Jerome (Smit-McPhee) by selling alcohol and other stuff - which he transports by mule - to men constructing a new pipeline, even though he knows it is destined to bypass his farm.

At home, Jerome's older sister Mary (Fanning) is obsessed with - and soon pregnant by - local ne'er-do well Flem (Hoult).

When the family mule breaks a leg and has to be destroyed, Holm invests in a robot mule to carry his goods to and from the pipeline. Flem soon has his eyes on that as well and, denied a loan of the device by Holm, breaks into the barn and 'borrows' it anyway. Holm sets out after him, with eventually tragic consequences.

Later developments centre on Jerome and, after some slower patches that may catch you looking at your watch, the story canters along nicely with some occasional action and a satisfying, if bleak conclusion.

Smit-McPhee is okay in a downcast, lapdog sort of way, but needs to start finding more diversity in his roles. Fanning struggles with an underwritten role, and it's Hoult who catches the eye with calmly-controlled villainy. It has its moments.

David Quinlan

South Africa/Ireland/USA 2014. UK Distributor: Signature. Colour by The Film Lab.
101 minutes. Not widescreen. UK certificate: 15.

Guidance ratings (out of 3): Sex/nudity 0, Violence/Horror 1, Drugs 0, Swearing 1.

Review date: 27 Apr 2015