Writer-director Justin Lee's indie western is a big hit with Netflix subscribers.
Editor's Note: Throughout March and April, we’re celebrating Great Westerns of the 21st Century — noteworthy movies and TV series with special appeal to C&I readers that have premiered since 2001. Check the Entertainment tab Monday through Friday to see a different recommendation by C&I senior writer Joe Leydon. And be on the lookout for our upcoming May/June 2020 print edition, which prominently features the legendary star who looms large in two of this century’s very best westerns.
Looks like Badland has been very, very good for Netflix.
Writer-director Justin Lee’s exceptional 2019 indie western was a big hit with our readers who cast ballots for the third annual C&I Movie Awards, and honored the movie in multiple categories: Best Film, Best Actress (Mira Sorvino), Best Supporting Actress (Amanda Wyss), Best Director and Best Screenplay (both for Lee). And now Netflix subscribers are discovering the well-crafted drama about a straight-shooting Pinkerton agent (played by Kevin Makey) on a manhunt during the post-Civil War era.
According to a statement released Thursday: Since Badland premiered on the streaming platform last Friday, March 27, the film is No. 3 on Netflix’s movie chart and No. 7 overall among Netflix’s library of offerings available to its 167 million subscribers. Cowabunga.
Badland follows the misadventures of Matthias William Breecher (Makey), a man of few words and many bullets who is hired by a slave-turned-Senator (Tony Todd) to track down war criminals who fought for the Confederacy. The first on his dead-or-alive to-do list: Corbin Dandridge, a grandiloquent former general — vividly portrayed by Trace Adkins — who, not surprisingly, would rather not be hanged for his wartime misdeeds. As I noted in my review for Variety last October: “Adkins drawls, gesticulates, and generally milks his cameo role with shamelessly entertaining brio, so that it’s almost a disappointment when Breecher summarily dispatches the general (along with a few flunkies) before the film’s title appears on screen.”
After that, Breecher follows a trail that leads him to Reginald Cooke (Bruce Dern, excellent as always), an aged ex-Confederate who’s bedridden and fatally ill on his ranch under the watchful eye of Sarah (Mira Sorvino), his resourceful daughter. Rightly figuring there’s no use arresting, or shooting, a man who’s already so close to death’s door, the Pinkerton decides to simply stick around long enough to let nature take its course. Which, of course, gives him enough time to develop a relationship with Sarah.
But despite their mutual attraction — well, this is a western, and a man’s got to do what a man’s got to do. Ultimately, inevitably, Breecher winds up in a gone-to-seed mining town where a Southern-fried sadist named Huxley Wainwright (Jeff Fahey) has established himself more or less as a monarch. Again from my Variety review: “Fahey squeezes the juice out of every florid pronouncement, every purring bit of snark or condescension, and gives every indication that he is having the time of his life. The sheer delight he takes in expressing nastiness is highly contagious, especially when Wainwright goads Breecher into what he promises will be ‘a good old-fashioned, dime-novel showdown.’” Which, of course, it is.
The strong supporting cast also includes C&I reader favorite Wes Studi as Harlan Red, Breecher’s not-entirely-friendly rival in the manhunting business, and the aforementioned Amanda Wyss as Alice Hollenbeck, a saloon proprietor who’s desperate to free herself from Wainwright’s control.
And by the way: In addition to streaming on Netflix, Badland is available on Amazon Prime, You Tube, Google Play, Redbox and other platforms.