PLOT: In a future where the earth has been scorched through a third world war fought by the globe’s biggest corporations, white collar crime has become punishable by death. Corporate execs and businessmen are hunted by the “bounty killers”, a group of celebrity assassins. The top bounty killers are the enigmatic Drifter (Matthew Marsden), and his former protégé/lover, Mary Death (Christian Pitre). When a huge bounty is put on Drifter’s head, the two must cross the badlands and confront the mysterious “council” to have the bounty lifted.
REVIEW: BOUNTY KILLER is incredibly ambitious for a low-budget Fantasia selection. Expanded from his own short film, director Henry Saine doesn’t let a lack of money stop him from making a sprawling action-adventure movie that harkens back to the cool, Italian-style MAD MAX clones (like 1990: BRONX WARRIORS, or the Aussie-sploitation flick BATTLETRUCK) a lot of us grew up on.
With its tongue firmly planted in cheek, BOUNTY KILLER makes up in style what it lacks in resources. The opening shootout, where Drifter and Mary Death take out a roomful of baddies in a fight that leaves Mary dangling from a rooftop, having a cigarette, makes it clear that this is not trying to be all that serious, adopting a satirical tone that makes it pretty easy to digest. The premise is pretty solid for a movie of this kind, and the way Mary Death is followed around by paparazzi, hoping to get an exclusive on her latest kill, reminded me of the original DEATH RACE 2000. The movie is full of cute jokes like that, such as a six-pack of Pabst Blue-Ribbon being worth more than gold, and deliberately (I think) hokey dialogue and crazy over-the-top action (shot in full-on 2:35:1 scope).
It helps that Saine’s put together a very good cast, with all the performances synching up perfectly with the jokey tone. Matthew Marsden, who impressed me with his scene-stealing turn as the badass sniper School Boy in RAMBO, gets his first all-out action lead. Drifter is clearly patterned after enigmatic, shaggy heroes like Mad Max, and Eastwood’s “Man with No Name”, complete with a mysterious past, although Marsden doesn’t play him as brooding. This is too silly a film for that, and he’s got a certain easygoing charm that reminded me a little of a young Mark Harmon (circa TAUREG- WARRIOR OF THE DESERT). Christian Pitre, as Mary Death, is drop-dead gorgeous and athletic. While it’s apparently her first film, she also seems to “get” the movie’s vibe, and does very well in the part. While the occasional name like Beverly D’Angelo, Kristanna Loken (looking and sounding like a young Kathleen Turner), rapper Eve, and none other than Gary Busey show up here and there, the movie is all but stolen by Barak Hardley. He plays Drifter’s “gun-caddy”, which is exactly what the name suggests, as he carries around Drifter’s (many) guns in a golf bag. He makes for a likable and often hilarious sidekick, with his knowing dialogue often poking fun at the movie’s increasingly outlandish turn of events.
To really enjoy a movie like BOUNTY KILLER, you have to go in with the right attitude. If you’re expecting another ROAD WARRIOR, you’re going to be disappointed. But, if you’re game for a kind of throwback to Roger Corman style B-movie mayhem, BOUNTY KILLER is right up your alley. I had a lot of fun with it, and I’d love for more low-budget movies to go the action movie route as opposed to always defaulting to horror. The grindhouse, cheesy action movie deserves a comeback, and BOUNTY KILLER proves you don’t need a hundred million dollars (or heck- even a million dollars) to make a fun one.