Badland

Movie review by
Jeffrey M. Anderson, Common Sense Media
Badland Movie Poster Image
Violent but low-key Western gets by thanks to strong cast.
  • NR
  • 2019
  • 117 minutes

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A lot or a little?

The parents' guide to what's in this movie.

Positive Messages

The main message of the movie is about quitting dangerous work and settling down. There are also a few acts of kindness, as well as a subplot with revenge as a motivation.

Positive Role Models & Representations

Main character Breecher kills for a living, but he refuses to kill in any way other that what's allowed by law. He also performs a random act of kindness or two (risking his safety to provide relief for another), and when he's not "doing his job," he seems to care about others.

Violence

Lots of guns/shooting. Main character rapid-fire shoots and kills several people. A man shoots a woman. A woman has bruises on her face. Other characters are shot and killed. Violent fight between two characters, with punching, choking, gouging, etc. Spitting blood. Main character tortured via waterboarding (a cloth is draped over his face and water poured onto it).

Sex

Shirtless man in bath. Kissing.

Language

Sporadic uses of "s--t," "bitch," "son of a bitch," "bastard," "hell," and "goddamn."

Consumerism
Drinking, Drugs & Smoking

Casual, social drinking (whiskey), and some smoking.

What parents need to know

Parents need to know that Badland is a Western about a Pinkerton investigator named Matthias Breecher (Kevin Makely). He's assigned to charge ex-Confederate leaders with war crimes and execute them, but he ends up becoming involved with one man's daughter (Mira Sorvino). Violence includes lots of guns and shooting, with characters getting killed. A woman is shot, and a woman has bruises on her face. Two characters fight, with punching, choking, gouging, and spitting blood. Breecher is also tortured via waterboarding (a cloth is draped over his face, and water is poured onto it). Language is sporadic but includes uses of "s--t," "son of a bitch," "bastard," "hell," etc. A shirtless man is shown in a bath, and a couple kisses. Characters drink whiskey and smoke in a social, casual way. The film is a little low-energy, but a fine cast eventually saves it, and it's worth seeing for mature viewers.

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What's the story?

In BADLAND, the Civil War is over, and a newly elected Black senator (Tony Todd) wants revenge against the Confederates. He dispatches Pinkerton investigator Mathias Breecher (Kevin Makely) to find them and execute them for war crimes. After taking care of "The General" (Trace Adkins), Breecher finds that the next man on his list, Reginald Cooke (Bruce Dern), is gravely ill. So Breecher vows to wait until death takes its natural course. Cooke's daughter Sarah (Mira Sorvino) soon comes to appreciate Breecher's presence. And Breecher then decides to pay a visit to the Quaid family, who've been pressuring Sarah to give up her land. Breecher hopes to dissuade them, but the untrustworthy Quaid launches an attack, putting the Cookes in danger. Meanwhile, Breccher has one more target on his list.

Is it any good?

With a low-budget, low-energy feel, this Western gets off to a wobbly start, but thanks to several great veteran performers, it soon finds an even, laconic tone that should please fans of the genre. Badland begins by more or less throwing away two of its best assets, character actors Todd and Wes Studi, on dull expositional dialogue that explains first, why Breecher is doing this job and, second, why he should quit. The opening face-off likewise feels just a few beats too slow. But when Dern and Sorvino come into the picture, things start feeling a little more soulful.

Writer/director Justin Lee allows their characters and Breecher to form organic relationships, with some lovely conversations -- and even moments of no conversation. A few other familiar faces -- James Russo, Jeff Fahey, and Amanda Wyss (Better Off Dead -- help keep things afloat during the final stretch, as Breecher finishes his mission. Badland is pretty familiar overall, and it's far from the best the Western genre has to offer. But it does provide beautiful widescreen cinematography and a few moments of genuine tension. Ultimately, though, it's the sad, wistful characters that are its saving grace.

Talk to your kids about ...

  • Families can talk about Badland's violence. How much do guns play into it? Were guns more accepted back in those days than they are today?

  • How can we root for a hero whose job is to kill? What's appealing about him, despite the violence? Is he a good person?

  • How are alcohol and smoking depicted? Are they glamorized? Are there consequences?

  • How is this a revenge story? What's appealing about thje idea of revenge? What are the downsides?

  • What kinds of stories do Westerns tell? What's specific and unique about this genre? How does this movie compare to other Westerns you may have seen?

Movie details

Our editors recommend

For kids who love dramas

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