Saturday, May 21, 2011

Jonathan Kaplan's "Bad Girls"


Is this country so starved for a decent western that we have to sit through this steaming cow patty to find it?

In the first few minutes, four prostitutes leave town in a frenzy after one of them kills another's client in hooker defense. I don't have any character names, because this all happens in the first ten minutes without any background to who the characters are or their relationships to each other.

The women escape and go for a pie in the sky dream of running a lumber mill in Oregon. Enter James Russo, Madeleine Stowe's former beau and current outlaw. He takes all of Stowe's hard earned money. She works hard for her money...so hard for it, honey... Dermot Mulroney of the "Young Guns" series happens by to flirt with the ladies while seeking his own revenge. The rest of the film consists of at least three of our five heroes getting captured and disappearing, then the others riding to rescue them. Three times...they shouldn't have quit their night jobs.

The four leads are pretty and beautiful and buxom and nothing like the Old West's real soiled doves. The quartet could have stepped off a Ralph Lauren fashion runway. For a more realistic portrayal, try either "Unforgiven" or the stupidly titled "The Wicked Wicked West" with Kelly McGillis and Brenda Fricker.

You know the routine in this kind of film, the bad guys lose, the good girls (or is it bad girls?) win. Director Kaplan apes the late great Sam Peckinpah, throwing in slow motion scenes. Unlike Sam, Kaplan uses slow motion for no motivation or reason, just to do it.

Except for Mulroney and James LeGros, all the men here are pigs who are just holding these poor women down. A great feminist statement that is ironic in a film that dumped its first female director in favor of Kaplan, who decides we cannot get through the film without a couple of glimpses of Drew Barrymore topless. Girl power!

This is not a good western, your first clue is the five different writers listed in the opening credits. All involved have done better, and you would be better off checking those out instead. "Bad Girls" is bad in more ways than one. (*) out of five stars.