This rough-hewn, impressive Dutch-made post-apocalypse action picture – directed by Colinda Bongers and screenwriter Thijs Meuwese – is basic in its story and set-up, though a last-minute sequel hook hints at a more fleshed-out world than we see. But its hand-to-mouth feel, reminiscent of The Last Battle and Mad Max 2, is effective and it pays off with a seemingly uninterrupted take that lasts a full third of the film and delivers Raid-style action that ramps up the excitement almost to exhausting levels.
Years after ‘the world fell over’, top-hatted master of ceremonies Deacon (Joost Bolt) lords it over surviving scuzzbos by holding pit fights between ‘supplicants’ (ordinary folks dosed with drool-drugs to become feral beasts), inevitably raking in big winnings in the currency du jour (bullets). He’s ticked off when the house loses for once as the Truth (Shilton Celius), his apparently unbeatable champion, is taken down by an unprepossessing guy called Bob, who wears a shredded business suit. A minion (Cyriel Guds) reports sightings of the near-legendary Molly (Julia Batelaan), who has been experimented on by nebulous mad science and can occasionally summon undefined but formidable super-powers, and Deacon sends a party out to capture her for the cages. Out in the wilds, which have an overexposed lush look that makes an interesting contrast with most bleached-out apocalypseworlds, Molly wanders with her pet falcon, fending off attacks from all comers. The plot hook is that an injured Molly comes across dinosaur-funsuited kid Bailey (Emma de Paauw), whose parents have been turned into supplicants, and sort of bonds with the girl while sewing herself up in her tent … then is obliged to enter Deacon’s maze of rusty iron corridors to rescue the girl. The villain’s plan to recruit Molly as a star attraction is flawed, since abducting her only friend unlooses a homicidal fury that seems likely to take out potential rivals – most notably, cyber-assisted soldier woman Kimmy (Annelies Appelhof) – plus any other contestants, most of the supplicants, and any conceivable audience.
In extremis, Molly emits force blasts which kill or ward off, but mostly she relies on simple scrappiness – using arrows when outdoors and thumps, kicks and illegal holds in the confined spaces of Deacon’s lair. Batelaan doesn’t look like the typical warrioress of the wasteland – with a topknot, big plastic specs and a pick-and-mix outfit – but fully earns heroic status simply by not giving in to despair or giving up against impossible odds. Everyone else plays broadly, but this isn’t exactly a world where subtlety is going to prevail. It really gets a grip in its long-take finale, which finds the camera tagging Molly as she fights her way up through video-game like levels, littering the passageways with mangled opponents, but also lurching away from the heroine to follow the chaos spreading through Deacon’s realm in her wake, as all the other subplots break loose and get resolved.