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part of a small rebellion | by maryann johanson

Scorched Earth movie review: there’s still room for feminism at the end of the world

Scorched Earth yellow light

MaryAnn’s quick take…
Gina Carano roams a mild yet tedious postapocalyptic wasteland as a bounty hunter, and either you are here for this lady badass of our feminazi dreams, or you are not.tweet
I’m “biast” (pro): I’m desperate for stories about women
I’m “biast” (con): nothing
(what is this about? see my critic’s minifesto)
women’s participation in this film
male director, male screenwriter, female protagonist
(learn more about this)

It’s a confused kind of postapocalyptic hellscape in Scorched Earth. The earth doesn’t look very scorched, for one, “fifty years after the Cloudfall.” which takes us to, apparently, the early 22nd century. The air and water are poisoned, but everything seems pretty nice otherwise up here in the mountains of what used to be Montana. There’s a sort of neo Wild West vibe: it’s a little bit Firefly, actually. Billions of people are dead, which is terrible, of course, but today “the most heinous crime possible” is being a “belcher,” or driving a fossil fuel–consuming vehicle. But why would this be so bad? With almost no one left, a few people driving around in their Mad Max cosplay SUVs-in-tank-costumes will hardly contribute any parts-per-million to the atmosphere.

Anyway, “bounty hunters roam the wastelands,” as you’d expect, and one of them is Gage, played by Gina Carano (Deadpool, Fast & Furious 6), and that’s almost all you need to know about Scorched Earth. Either you are here for this lady badass of our feminazi dreams, or you are not. Carano is not well used by this mostly dumb story, but she does get to dish out many smackdowns of dudes, which are often particularly satisfying when they were expecting they were get sexed up by her instead. (She has more than a bit of angry vengeance to mete out to men who abuse women.) It’s all about bringing down a very bad guy called Jackson (Ryan Robbins: Warcraft: The Beginning, Seventh Son), a tediously familiar postapocalyptic warlord type. He runs a town called Defiance where corpses hung at the town entrance welcome visitors. (Also they are belchers, so you know they’re really bad.) Eventually Gage will get to say, “It’s time to pay for what you’ve done, Jackson,” which may or may not involve sticks of dynamite propelled by crossbow. I won’t spoil.

What the well-dressed afterscape warlord wears: distressed leather and vintage buckles, accessorized with the last bottle of bourbon in existence.

What the well-dressed afterscape warlord wears: distressed leather and vintage buckles, accessorized with the last bottle of bourbon in existence.

Gage is not the only female bounty hunter in this world, which is about the only truly cool thing for which we can thank screenwriters Kevin Leeson (who has previously written a movie called Mongolian Death Worm) and Bobby Mort (a writer on the erstwhile Colbert Report, which is not anything you’ll see reflected here). The casting of the amazing John Hannah (Another Mother’s Son, The Mummy: Tomb of the Dragon Emperor), as Gage’s mentor, is about the only truly cool thing we can thank director Peter Howitt for. (Howitt had used Hannah previously in his 1998 film Sliding Doors, probably the filmmaker’s best-known work. He also directed the first Johnny English movie, which is not anything you’ll see reflected here.) Scorched Earth gets an extra half star from me purely for the presence of the always delightful Hannah, even if he’s not using that charming Scottish accent of his.

Oh, and, someone finally mentions “scorched earth,” and it’s metaphoric! It’s not about the apocalypse at all. That’s about as lazy as the rest of the movie, but maybe Carano gets to kill the guy that says it? I shan’t spoil.


Click here for my ranking of this and 2018’s other releases.



yellow light 2.5 stars

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Scorched Earth (2018) | directed by Peter Howitt
US/Can release: Feb 02 2018 (VOD same day)
UK/Ire release: direct to VOD

MPAA: rated R for violence and some language
BBFC: rated 15 (strong violence, injury detail)

viewed at home on PR-supplied physical media or screening link

IMDb | trailer
more reviews: Movie Review Query Engine | Rotten Tomatoes

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  • Hallah

    Ha, I’ve seen Mongolian Death Worm (really more like Albertan Death Worm, but whatever). It was a SyFy Original, and it sounds like this one should have been one too, except someone gave them money. Not much money, just more than basic cable money. That’s rarely a good idea.

  • RogerBW

    I’ve been hoping for another good Gina Carano-led film since Haywire. (To be fair, I haven’t seen In the Blood yet, but there wasn’t much positivity about it.)

  • Dent

    “I don’t want to set the world on fire…”

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