Scorched Earth | Peter Howitt | February 2, 2018
Scorched Earth envisions a post-apocalyptic future struck by a cataclysmic event known as the “Cloudfall” that nearly destroys the entire planet. It’s half a century later and those who survived are barely hanging on, as clean water and air have now become rare commodities. The economy is run on a barter system with water purifying tablets and powdered silver (used in masks to help breathe the toxic air) being the primary commodities.
The worst crime on could commit in this world is by having the audacity to drive a gas-guzzling car. Those who continue to hurt the environment are deemed “belchers” and are swiftly hunted down by bounty hunters. One of these bad-ass bounty hunters is our protagonist Gage (Gina Carano).
After taking down well known criminal Chavo (Luvia Petersen), she learns from her mentor Doc (John Hannah) of a shady neighboring community headed by notorious baddie Thomas Jackson (Ryan Robbins) with a fat price on his head. Her plan is to enter the community pretending to be Chavo, gain the trust of Jackson, and get close enough to take him out.
Helmed by director Peter Howitt (Sliding Doors, Johnny English), Scorched Earth takes familiar ideas and paints them in a bleak vision of murky greys. Like Mad Max stuck in a Western, the script from Kevin Leeson and Bobby Mort doesn’t stand out or feel fresh in any way. The opening sequence hammers you with bland exposition before the dreary lines of dialogue spill out that are almost as stale as the images that accompany them.
Carano doesn’t have the dramatic chops to lead a film with such as uninspired script but, of course, the mixed martial artist was able to hold her own with the action sequences. There’s decent enough showings from Ryan Robbins and Dean S. Jagger as the bad guys, as well as John Hannah, a good actor who surely deserves much better than this. But ultimately there’s only so much heavy lifting they can give to the light material.
The film’s low budget is felt everywhere you look, as the sets and costumes came off feeling like an episode of The Walking Dead, rather than a feature film production. There’s a saloon scene with a singer named Melena (Stephanie Bennett), but the lip-syncing is almost YouTube-level bad that I can’t believe they actually allowed it into the final cut.
Sure, there are a few fun moments here and there, but ultimately Scorched Earth doesn’t reach The Room levels of being “So Bad It’s Good”, instead it sits in a level of forgettable purgatory that does it no favors. It lacked any earned campiness or charm to win me over as a B-movie, feeling every bit the straight-to-VOD production.