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Saturday, September 22, 2018

MOLLY -- Blu-ray Review by Porfle

One thing zombie flicks and post-apocalyptic dystopia movies have in common is that, thanks to templates such as NIGHT OF THE LIVING DEAD and MAD MAX, there's very little need for exposition. We're just suddenly there in these established worlds, and all that's required is to learn the specifics of the individual storyline being presented for us to follow.

This is true for the post-apocalyptic dystopia action-thriller MOLLY (Artsploitation Films, 2017), which comes to us by way of the Netherlands and brashly shoulders its way into the ranks of the best, or at least most brashly entertaining, films of that genre. 

An earlier trailer might've gone like this: "In a world...where society has been replaced by anarchy...and the innocent are injected with a drug that turns them into savage beasts pit-fighting to the death as gamblers cheer them girl...with special powers and a fierce will to survive...fights to bring down an evil dictator while protecting an orphaned child she found alone in the wasteland...etc...etc..."

The girl with "special powers" (which I won't spoil here) is Molly (Julia Batelaan), who's like a cross between a myopic valley girl and Velma from "Scooby-Doo" (complete with glasses).  She looks like a normal teenaged nerd-girl all weighed down by a huge backpack and other gear, but circumstances have forced her to become a wandering warrior who must keep her guard up 24/7 against those who wish to either rob, kill, or capture her.

Local big-wig Deacon (Joost Bolt) wields the aforementioned drug and runs the pit fights, turning captives into vicious drug-fueled maniacs called "supplicants" and staging death battles during which he cleans up on the gambling front (with bullets as the main currency).  With Molly having become something of a legend in those parts, he orders his warriors to hunt her down and capture her for his fighting pit.

It took a while for me to settle in and "get" this movie.  At first, it looks like it's just going to be another mildly entertaining genre offering at best, albeit one with an intriguing main character.  The fight choreography seems a bit off at times, and the story seems a bit lean.

Gradually, however, the imagination and skill behind this above-average effort began make themselves more and more apparent until, by the second half, I was getting swept up in what was fast becoming a dazzling feat of modestly-budgeted filmmaking.

As soon as Molly befriends the little orphan girl Bailey (Emma de Paauw), who is then kidnapped as bait to lure Molly into the clutches of Deacon and his band of rough boys, our heroine's rescue mission in the bad guys' rusted-metal offshore lair becomes a dizzying non-stop assault of blazing action and breathtaking filmmaking.

Earlier fight scenes had a choppily edited shaky-cam look to them in order to convey Molly's fear and disorientation during sudden surprise attacks that came out of nowhere.  But during the extended finale, which takes place on several levels of iron walkways in a harsh industrial setting, the direction and cinematography suddenly shift into sort of a cinematic overdrive that had me goggle-eyed with amazement.

Fights still lack finesse, but this gives them the dirty, messy, awkward feel of real life-or-death battle. And when this mass of sweaty humanity starts plunging into fierce conflict in close quarters, directors Colinda Bongers and Thijs Meuwese shoot it all in amazing long takes with disguised edits that give the illusion of one unbroken action scene lasting a good 20-30 minutes or so.

(Molly's set-to with Deacon's main assassin Kimmy, played by Annelies Appelhof, is a real highlight, as is her final showdown with the Deacon himself.)

It's especially impressive in that the filmmakers don't have quick edits and jerky camerawork to use as a visual crutch.  The sequence boasts beautiful photography and camera moves (no shaky-cam, lens flares, etc.) and precision choreography that must've required both exhaustive practice and multiple retakes.

This is, to be honest, some of the best action filmmaking I've ever seen.  I was constantly reminded of a previous fave, HARD REVENGE MILLY, which this actually surpasses in my estimation.  Which, for me, is no small thing.  The hallway fight scene from OLDBOY also comes to mind.

Through it all, the character of freckled, bespectacled Molly is enigmatic but likable, and human enough to panic when she loses her glasses during a fight.  Where the heck did she come from, we wonder, and how did she become this fabled bow-wielding warrior who defeats opponents twice her size and ferociousness, with nothing more than a sort of frantically puckish resolve to survive? (Plus those special powers, of course, but I won't go into that.)

The Blu-ray from Artsploitation Films is in 1.78:1 widescreen with English 5.1 surround sound and optional English subtitles.  Bonus features consist of a directors' commentary, a half-hour "making of" featurette, and a trailer. 

I had a great time watching MOLLY, especially since so many films of this genre have been both blatantly derivative and inescapably dull.  Okay, this movie is sorta blatantly derivative too--but dull it ain't.  Following the satisfying resolution, there's an epilogue which promises a possible sequel, and, for once, I'm actually looking forward to it.


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