To call Jonathan Kaplan's Bad Girls a "pro-feminist" Western Flick is kind of a joke. Oh sure, you can assume that the DVD cover, which features four posturing gunslingerettes in full ass-kicking pose, is representative of something that women might respect, admire or (gasp) even relate to -- but the sad truth is that Bad Girls is pretty damn humiliating for all women involved. Here we have four "heroines" who spend the whole of their own movie getting insulted, accosted, molested, whipped, smacked, and raped by deviants -- and rescued by dashing he-men (several times). Frankly, if this flick is somebody's idea of "pro-woman," my guess is that that certain "somebody" probably doesn't know all that many women.
Bad Girls is a chick-flick only on the surface. Deep down it's a leering, pandering, and somewhat tasteless affront to the fair sex.
And as for the movie itself, as far as technical merits go ... don't make me laugh. This is a poorly directed, choppily edited, atrociously written, and entirely unconvincing piece of mindless movie machinery. It absolutely reeks of quickie tricky filmmaking, from the bland performances to the amorphously meandering plot devices.
But the back-history of Bad Girls offers a clear illustration as to why it's such a bad film: Apparently the movie really was meant to be some sort of a "Western adventure as told from a woman's point of view." That woman was director Tamra Davis, but she got fired only two weeks into production, so the screenplay was completely rewritten (in a big hurry), and director Jonathan Kaplan was brought on to deliver what's basically one of the most obvious and blatant rip-offs of The Wild Bunch that you've ever seen. With the extra novelty of estrogen!
(One can only imagine what Ms. Davis thinks when she sees Bad Girls pop up on late-night cable, since it's precisely the opposite of what a "pro-female" western would look like. Hell, the Bad Girls that I just watched makes Sharon Stone in The Quick and the Dead look absolutely admirable.)
And I doubt that any open-minded female filmmaker would populate her movie with women who have sex appeal as their only viable weapon. The Bad Girls don't solve problems via smarts or guile or creativity ... they just flash some thigh and cleavage, and things just kinda ... work out! And when that doesn't fail, well, don't worry about it, because this is a movie filled with characters who'd rather glower and spout inane words than, y'know, kill the people they allegedly hate.
Anyway, the four ladies are Madeleine Stowe (the stoic leader), Drew Barrymore (the doe-eyed daredevil), Andie McDowell (the Southern Belle), and Mary Stuart Masterson (the ... other one). As the story opens, the gals are, of course, whores. And when one grabby grub gets a little too friendly with one of our lead hookers, he ends up on the wrong end of a bullet. And it's lynchin' time for hookerdom!
Needless to say, a gallows escape leads to a Pinkerton chase which results in a train robbery, which yields a new-fangled machine gun that a scummy bastard will kidnap one of the Bad Girls to get his hands on... Toss in a few photogenic young men (James LeGros & Dermot Mulroney) to act as love interests / perpetual rescuers, and a few ham-fistedly directed action scenes ... and all that's left is a finale as predictable as it is laughable.
Basically nobody escapes from the movie with their reputation intact. Ms. Stowe breaks out (maybe) three distinct emotions throughout the entire film; Barrymore's spit-valve dialogue delivery is as embarrassing as her curvy body is exploited; Masterson and McDowell wander about and do very little besides speak in strange accents. It's all a little embarrassing.
Even the most basic technical aspects of Bad Girls border on retarded. The musical score sounds like something ported over from an old episode of Fantasy Island, the editorial technique can charitably be described as scattershot and unfocused (count how many times the movie fades out and then fades back in on the exact same location), and for some hilarious reason, Mr. Kaplan opts to employ frequent doses of Leone-wannabe "zooooom-ins" that just sort of land upon the characters' glowering faces with the grace of a hungry mosquito.
And for all that complaining, there's still something that's just a little bit entertaining about Bad Girls -- not so much in spite of the movie's ineptitude, but kind of in tandem with it. Then again, I'm a sucker for Westerns of all shapes and sizes, and, yes, I sure can enjoy a pretty face when I see one. But don't dare try to tell me that Bad Girls is a movie that has women in mind, because that'd be a huge, silly joke. This is a movie made for guys who love the same old story told the same exact way ... only this one has boobies in it.
Oh, and speaking of boobies, this version of Bad Girls comes with the "unrated" banner across the DVD case. And in this case, "unrated" actually means "17 extra seconds of very brief & bare Barrymore boobage" -- as if that's some sort of obscure and rarely-seen commodity.
Video: Widescreen (1.85:1) anamorphic on side A, fullframe (1.33:1) bloat display on side B. Obviously the WS is the way to go, but don't expect anything resembling a flawless transfer. It's serviceable enough, for the most part, but there's also several print scratches and fuzz to be found as well.
Audio: Dolby Digital 5.1, French DD 2.0, and Spanish 2.0. Sound quality is pretty darn fine, despite the fact that all you're listening to is one of the worst Western screenplays ever written and a musical score that sounds like Hell's soundtrack.
Extras: A pair of Bad Girls theatrical trailers.
Women kicking ass in a Western movie is not an absurd or impossible idea ... but you'd never know it from watching this flick. Plus, any self-respecting Western that resorts to depicting the vaunted Pinkerton detectives as clueless dolts, just so its purportedly capable (but ultimately stupid) female heroes can ride off into the sunset, is no Western I want to spend another minute with.