Film Review: Bounty Killer

Imagine a cross between <i>The Road Warrior</i> and<i> Death Race 2000</i> and you'll have an idea what this sometimes clever and always action-packed post-apocalyptic romp is up to.

The year is…well, who knows when, but sometime after the brutal corporate wars that scorched most of America into a dusty hellhole punctuated by the occasional radioactive no man’s land and left the survivors divided into two camps: the elite whose money and influence allow them to live in fortified communities where everything is more or less the way it was before the fall, and the rest, scrambling for food, shelter, water and makeshift transportation (in the form of rebuilt muscle cars, rusted vans and repurposed buses) in a blasted wasteland where life is cheap and the pickings are slim. The only thing resembling a government is the Council of 9, a mysterious and apparently benevolent entity dedicated to rebuilding (not much sign of that happening) and giving the people hope for the future by assigning "bounty killers" to roam the wasteland bagging the white-collar criminals who escaped the conflagration they caused.

Bounty killers like Drifter (Matthew Marsden) and Mary Death (Christian Pitre), the best of the best of their bloody calling…which is not to say they see eye-to-eye on how best to practice their vocation. Drifter is the taciturn man with no name who travels on a low-rider bike and keeps to himself, ignoring the gutter press that keeps people entertained with stories of righteous mayhem. Mary Death is a beauty in white vinyl boots and mini-tunic; she tools around in a sexy Cobra Mach-1, dazzling the masses with her cover-girl smile and gorgeous gams. Do Drifter and Mary have a past? Of course they do—they're too viciously competitive not to be, especially after Drifter's new gun caddy, four-eyed sidekick Jack LeMans (Barak Hardley) torches her beloved car and leaves her stranded in the middle of the desert while they set off on the trail of another score.

The plot particulars stop mattering after the Council ups the ante by issuing a death warrant for one Francis Gormand on charges that include impersonating a bounty killer—Gormand's picture being a dead ringer for Drifter. Suddenly everyone is after Drifter, including smiling psycho Van Sterling (Gary Busey), a cold-eyed and spike-heeled bitch named Catherine (Kristanna Loken, looking less like the Terminatrix who once beat the hell out of Arnold Schwarzenegger than a 1950s catalogue model pretending not to notice the ungodly hideousness of her lacquered up-do), a death-masked warrior queen (Eve Jeffers) and an army of smirking suits in yellow ties. Let the demolition derby at the end of the world begin!

Based on Saine and Dodson's 2011 short, which featured much of the same cast, Bounty Killer finds and, more surprising, sticks to a middle ground between cartoonish farce and gritty survivalist downer. Would it be fair to call it the Raiders of the Lost Ark of low-budget post-apocalypse movies? Why not? It may not be a real B-movie—because there are no B-movies anymore, and haven't been since the ’70s—but it's unpretentious, energetic, and exudes a scrappy determination to deliver value for your entertainment dollar.