Julien Neaves, Caribbean Head Writer
Last month I reviewed the Trinidad and Tobago short film Missing Persons, a superhero supernatural thriller featuring new superhero character Batchack Man. The film is quite the mess but it goes into the territory of “so-bad-it’s-good”. Well Missing Persons was a follow-up to the feature film Batchack Man which I was able to view due to the kind courtesy of Visionaries Production. And the first film is not only vastly superior, but it is so-bad-it’s-awesome!
Batchack Man tells the tale of an unnamed man who turns into the titular hero after going into the woods to try and videotape spirits and ends up getting bitten by magical ants (bachac or leafcutter ants to be specific). He is saved by a mysterious herbalist and awakens on a park bench in his underwear. He now has increased strength and an ability to sense “bad mind” (think of Bruce Willis’s ability in Unbreakable). He decides to use his new powers to fight crime as a superhero, dons a gimp-like mask, leather-like jacket and jeans, and becomes Batchack Man! Or as he put it, “Boy I real strong. Bess I go and fight crime.” Well, he monologues that he is “real strong” but he demonstrates this exactly once (he throws a purse really high in a misguided attempt at style points) and the rest of the time he struggles like a regular guy in fights against random criminals and henchmen. And the “bad mind” power apparently only works when the plot requires it. And he apparently also developed an allergy to wearing shirts as he is bareback half the time. Writer/director/producer/chief/cook and bottlewasher Keyon Brown stars as Batchack Man (let’s just call him “BM” for short) and to call his performance “acting” would be generous. His line delivery sounds like he is calling out a grocery list and his emotional range goes from puzzled to mildly intense, whether he is reading a note from his wife’s kidnappers or delivering a box to some chatty office women.
Brown/BM is much better in the fighting department as he does bring a good physicality to the role. And the fights are easily the selling point of the film. They are downright hilarious! The awkward moves, over-the-top sound effects, and highly questionable physics all combine to deliver some gut-busting comedy and some genuine entertainment. I’m not sure if it was intentional or not but it had me laughing out loud. The special effects were another “highlight” as well, including some of the fakest looking fire and smoke I have ever seen, some truly unrealistic gun flashes, and one poorly rendered digital flying bullet. See Matrix? You still influencing folks to this day. For better or worse.
And speaking of better and worse, let’s talk about the other characters. Now no one here will be in danger of being nominated for an award (we don’t have a Razzies in Trinidad or the Caribbean as far as I know) but I thought Fidel Guerra was decent enough as henchman Mendez, and Jullian Ferguson did well as the shady Ms Dianna, who apparently owns the world’s smallest briefcase. But I’m not here for good acting people. Give me Yohann Thomas as overly enthusiastic henchman Gully Gad, or Russell Allen as big bad crime boss OH (Original Herbalist, and of course that’s his name) with his Spanish hack-cent. Every time OH butchered that accent I could not help but laugh. And I was like, “We have a lot of Venezuelans in the country right now. Could we not have gotten at least one of them to play this role? Or maybe, not have OH be Spanish? No and no? Okay, cool.”
What about the plot? Well it is pretty straightforward and thankfully not as convoluted as Missing Persons. The bad guys want BM to lead them into the forest where he got his powers to retrieve a special herb for some unknown purpose. Though why they are attempting to kill him when they need him for this doesn’t make a lot of sense. And they eventually find the place and the mysterious Herbalist (the good one who saved BM and wears palm fronds in his pants) as well, so why did they even need him in the first place? Try not to think too hard about that. Or how Gully Gad knows that Batchack Man is called Batchack Man when he never told the bad guys about that. Or why the police never show up despite automatic weapons being fired all over the country. Don’t think about any of that stuff. Just shut off your brain and focus on BM punching that guy in the face. Yeah, that’s the stuff.
There is also some unintentional humour in the editing, namely people changing clothes in ostensibly sequential scenes, a weird background sound effect reminiscent of ghosts running a marathon, and the quickest and most unnecessary flashback scene in the history of cinema. We also have some very obvious product placement (these films aren’t going to pay for themselves), odd spelling and grammatical errors and inconsistencies, an abrupt ending, and a very random post-credits scene, because after Iron Man EVERY superhero film will have a post-credits scene. Thanks a lot MCU.
Batchack Man is just a beautiful mess of a film and probably the closest thing we have so far to a Trinidad and Tobago feature in the vein of greatest so-bad-it’s-good film The Room. I am now secretly in love with this movie (don’t tell anyone) and I want to get the Trini Critics League together to watch it over some food and drink. #batchackmanlives
Editor Jules’s Score: (superhero action film) 3 out of 10, (unintentional comedy) 7 out of 10
Julien “Jules” Neaves is a TARDIS-flying, Force-using Trekkie whose bedroom stories were by Freddy Krueger, learned to be a superhero from Marvel, but dreams of being Batman. I love promoting Caribbean film (Cariwood), creating board games and I am an aspiring author. I say things like “12 flavours of awesome sauce”. I can also be found posting about TV and movie memes, news and trailers on Facebook at Movieville. And to stay on top of all Redmangoreviews articles you can like and follow us on Facebook here.