Scorched Earth (2018)

I can see why the “post-apocalyptic Western” makes for an inviting genre for low-budget filmmakers. You can film in deserts and showcase almost no recent technology. Just rent some horses and find a couple of revolvers and you’re almost set. Scorched Earth is the latest of these. It stars Gina Carano as Attica Gage—yes, that’s really her name—a bounty hunter in post-apocalyptia.

The world is more interesting than anything else in Scorched Earth, and even it’s not terribly exciting. We’re given a brief overview of how it happened at the start, and what struggles the survivors have now. The biggest one? Air pollution. Masks need to be worn with relative frequency or you’ll succumb to black lung. Powdered silver works in the air filters. Characters frequently don’t use the masks, though, because you can’t see the actors’ faces as well or hear what they’re saying as clearly, so I guess they’re risking the black lung for our sakes. They’ll put them up to their mouths every now and then but I figure one “clean” breath out of every 50 isn’t going to stave off the disease for very long.

That’s … potentially interesting, I suppose. Cars are prohibited because they further pollute the air, and most of the film looks like it takes place in the 1800s—except everything is tinged a foul puke green (due to the pollution) and looks especially cheap. Gage winds up getting an opportunity to infiltrate the gang of a notorious criminal, Thomas Jackson (Ryan Robbins), deciding that doing so would be the best way to take him down. A couple of people in that gang complicate things, but it pretty much goes down how any “undercover” movie does.

The plot is insubstantial, the characters are shallow archetypes, the acting ranges from sleepwalking to to borderline comatose. Carano is not a good actor for anything but the action scenes. Her dramatic chops aren’t there. She has two “acting faces”: angry or smug—and she delivers lines like she’s reading a restaurant menu.

Scorched Earth commits the unforgivable sin of being a boring B-movie.

It’s hard to drum up much enthusiasm for Scorched Earth, particularly because it lacks anything worth being interested in, beyond its world—which, let’s be honest, we’ve seen before. It’s a low-budget B-movie that lacks the fun that these things need. It’s so serious and bland. I’m not saying everything needs to be Turbo Kid, but try to liven things up, please. That’s especially true if you’re not going to try to give our characters anything more than the most generic, cliched personalities and back stories.

There isn’t even a ton of action, which could have helped Scorched Earth be at least moderately entertaining. They also look and feel pretty generic, but at least they mean something’s happening and people might die and there are guns and blood and explosions. In a brief moment of vision, the film has Gage shoot a stick of dynamite with a crossbow. Can we get more of that? That’s interesting. And I know it’s hard to craft a whole movie with that level of creativity, but more than one brief flash would be appreciated.

Scorched Earth commits the unforgivable sin of being a boring B-movie. If it had more creativity, less seriousness, better acting, an engaging plot, and less lethargy, you could probably get a half-decent movie out of it—except that we’ve seen dozens of these movies before, so you’d still wind up feeling pretty generic. Scorched Earth is a movie you watch to help you sleep.

Conclusion: Scorched Earth is a boring and uninspired post-apocalyptic Western.

Recommendation: Put Scorched Earth on if you need a nap; otherwise, you don’t have any reason to seek it out.

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