Psychological Drama Examines Toll Iraq War Takes on Returning Vet
Jerry (Jamie Draven) was just a patriotic country boy from the Badlands of Montana trying to serve his country when he naively enlisted in the Marine Reserves as a teenager. But he was never the same after being discharged from the military following the last of several tours of duty in the Middle East, which began with the first Gulf War, then Afghanistan, and ended back to Iraq.
For during that last campaign, he participated in a My Lai- style massacre which has left him haunted by nightmares and nosebleeds ever since his return. This Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD) has also prevented him from controlling his rage, holding a job, or functioning again as a husband and father to his wife, Nora (Vinessa Shaw) and three young children.
Feeling more and more estranged from this husband she no longer recognizes, Nora comes to resent his very presence in the home. Things come to head the day he discovers that she’s betrayed him. Of course, it doesn’t help any that she’s so fed up by then that she blurts out, “You should have died over there. You would’ve been better off.”
Unamused and infuriated, Jerry impulsively shoots his wife dead right on the spot, and quickly kills his sons, too. But when the gun misfires instead of blowing nine year-old Celina’s (Grace Fulton) brains out, he experiences a moment of sanity and decides not only to spare his little girl’s life but to make his getaway with her in tow.
So, unfolds the tortoise-paced Badland, the latest in a long line of preachy anti-war anthems. This picture’s primary problem is that it’s way to long, clocking in at almost three years. At least half the celluloid should have hit the editing room floor, since this one-trick road flick revolves around Jerry’s constantly contemplating suicide and belatedly bonding with his daughter while eluding the authorities.
During his escape, he is befriended by Oli (Chandra West), a cute cafe owner with a heart of gold who has no clue that the vet is deranged capable of going off again. Director Francesco Lucento repeatedly relies on leveraging Jerry’s mental instability to maintain the tension. But this becomes tiring after an hour, boring after two, and torture by Badland’s closing credits.
To top it all off, the film’s resolution turns on a rabbit-out-of-the-hat headscratcher you never see coming. PTSD as more of mind game than reality.
Fair (1 star)
Rated R for pervasive profanity and some disturbing violence.
Running time: 160 minutes
Studio: Copex/Archangelo Entertainment