In the post-apocalyptic wilderness, a lone woman roams. She’s armed to the teeth and keeps a trusty hawk as a lookout. She’s an escapee from an experimental lab where she was injected with a mysterious super-juice in an attempt to turn her into a sort of gimp-monster known as a supplicant, so she could battle in a pit for big money and prizes. Now, those who performed the experiments are hunting her down and will stop at nothing until she’s caged again.
Molly, the directorial debut of Dutch duo Colinda Bongers and Thijs Meuwese, is one half endearing independent action film and one half barely watchable student film. Glimpses of interesting flicks the two might make in the future glint through at intervals, but you’ll test your patience and blur the line between entertainment and chore to get there.
Directors: Colinda Bongers, Thijs Meuwese
Release Date: October 2, 2018 (DVD, VOD)
While Molly (Julia Batelaan) bathes in a stream, she’s attacked by a marauder, and a frantic struggle ensues. Amidst the screams and thrashing, the feeling of a vicious fight is clear, but the directors refuse to put the camera down. It shakes, jostles, cuts to different takes, all with added blur just to make sure no part of the action is too visible. So, instead of a grueling scene of human pain, the bulk of the fight devolves to noise and color with a few moments of discernible violence between.
Rather than focus on well-framed shots, most of Molly‘s first half relies on frenetic cutting at any moment that threatens to have action. This stitching of different takes from different angles for moments as minimal as Molly sliding down a hill and pulling back her bowstring can jostle characters out of position in jarring and disorienting ways. Couple that with an over-reliance on close-ups, sometimes little more than a blurry tangle of limbs on screen, and you have a bundle of action scenes that are just a pain to follow and unappealing to look at.
Patience and perseverance, however, are rewarded. Once Molly boards a boat and reaches the main-bad’s floating fort, the film changes style in a stark and welcome way. The last half-hour of the film works as an extended climax taken in just a single shot that’s beautifully framed and choreographed. The jump in quality is so significant, in fact, that I wonder if the first half wasn’t some kind of practical joke. Here, we have a gorgeous rust colored set with stylish lighting and time to admire the costumes and weapons.
The fights have a clear focus and geography that lead to some gut-wrenching brawls, the best of which are between Molly and a woman with a nifty hydraulic arm. Their final fist fight, which ends with Molly headbutting the woman half to death, is a prolonged showcase of genuine brutality that is sort of present through the rest of the film, provided you squint and tilt your head enough to see it.
This change of editing doesn’t resolve all of Molly‘s issues, though. The main villain offers a poor performance as a sort of carnival barker king that’s neither intimidating or charming and drags down every scene he’s in. Just about any attempt at humor lands flat, and too many people die to flaccid neck breaks that lack any sort of crunch or feeling.
If Molly were more consistent, it would at least be a strong display of frantic and desperate violence, but as it stands it’s painful to watch in all the wrong ways for much too long before it becomes something truly entertaining.