A barrage of unique and left-field choices make MOLLY stand out
Molly is one of my very favorite discoveries of 2018.
Genre-wise, Molly rests extremely comfortably in one of my very favorite areas: post-apocalyptic action. I’m prone to giving films like that a shot, even if it works out infrequently at best (see: Future World). But otherwise I was unfamiliar with a single name working on the film either before or behind the camera. The Netherlands aren’t exactly known for their action cinema. And the trailer, frankly, doesn’t even come close to doing the final film any justice. But somehow, between the main character’s unique look, the film’s artwork, and that so-so trailer, I had just enough ammunition to take a chance on Molly.
If political buzz is any indication, 2018 may be some type of “year of the woman” (and hopefully every year after?). Just in the past couple of weeks I’ve taken in several action films that seem to be capitalizing on that trend with tough female leads. I have to say: I’m here for it. I’ve always enjoyed kick-ass female heroines, and the action genre always needs fresh elements to keep it thriving. Why not empower more women? It feels like a win all around to me. Here we have actress Julia Batelaan portraying Molly, and it’s a unique portrayal and distinctive riff on the post-apocalyptic loner/scavenger archetype. With giant glasses that she truly needs to see properly (immediately relatable to this bespectacled writer who would instantly die in a post-apocalypse), a slight build, and long, floppy hair, Molly is immediately a visual treat as a character, defying expectations from jump street. Before we even get to her (which we do in the second half of the film’s very first shot), directors Colinda Bongers (female co-director who was pregnant during production) and Thijs Meuwese portray the occurrence of an apocalyptic event in a single shot that is elegant and efficient. I was impressed within the opening moments of the film, which is a great place to start. Moments later, marauders are chasing Molly up a sand dune, and we’re introduced to her strange and almost bumbling style of combat. Meuwese indicates in the film’s highly instructive commentary track that the idea behind the film’s combat was that all of these people, scavengers and marauders alike, probably weren’t martial artists before the end times came. They don’t really know how to do this stuff. They’re just forced into a new and brutal world and bad guys and good guys alike are making do with what they have. I love this approach.
An extremely physical film, we get to know Molly through her actions and circumstances. She doesn’t speak a lot, and is almost entirely alone, so she’s no one to speak with. That first fight, bumbling up a steep sand dune, shows us that Molly has supernatural ability of some kind. She’s also got a functioning gun with just a few bullets (gold in this new economy). Amazingly, she’s also got a trained bird of prey that patrols the skies for her and provides the occasional deus ex hawkina (I’m not sorry). Molly has survived because she adapts. She’s armed to the teeth with an assortment of collected and hand-made weapons and gear. She’s unsure, it seems, of what her supernatural powers are (or how to use them), experiences traumatic nightmares that indicate fiendish experiments, and has scars covering her back and head, all of which allude to a larger narrative going on just outside the margins on this particular story. Yes, there’s plenty of room for a Molly 2, and I’d welcome that with open arms.
In this particular adventure, one of the foot soldiers for Deacon (Joos Bolt), a local warlord who runs a fighting pit out of some abandoned structures above the water along the shore, discovers Molly’s powers and reports back to the warlord. Soon Deacon’s soldiers are on the hunt for Molly, seeking her as a prize pit fighter for their games. Meanwhile, Molly comes across a little girl with whom she instantly bonds (Emma de Paauw as Bailey, the dinosaur-costumed little scamp). When Bailey is taken (inevitable), Molly must storm the compound and fight to her last breath to save her. Amazingly, the entire final act of the film is a gargantuan hand-to-hand fight sequence in Deacon’s compound that is shot to look like one single long take. It’s over 30 minutes of non-stop, unique, creative combat, all in “real time” and captured with a smooth, continuous camera. While it was clear to my cynical and jaded eye when certain cuts were happening, that didn’t really diminish the magic of the ambition on display here, or the entertainment value. These actors are giving it their all, and this production team designed a fantastic little set that allowed them to achieve this bravura final act for their film. It’s all insanely ambitious for what must have been a very small budget.
Obviously, I adore Molly. It’s likely not everyone will. There’s some wonky acting, some obvious low budget workarounds, and occasional egregious green screen. Those “rough around the edges” elements could turn off many. As for me, a person who digs deep in action cinema to find exactly these kinds of gems among the detritus of countless worthless additions to the genre, I couldn’t be happier. Molly offers a unique voice; it gives authority and power to women in front of the camera and behind, giving it a freshness sorely needed in action cinema. The action is dynamic, the lead is fleshed out and fascinating, and it puts a whole new filmmaking team (from The Netherlands of all places) on the map as up and comers in the genre film world. Molly will undoubtedly land among my top 10 action films of 2018 and I’ll be encouraging the curious to seek this film out for years to come.
Artsploitation Films have found a diamond in the rough here with Molly, and they’ve done a great job with its Blu-ray release. This film pops with color (much of which was clearly done in post-production, but I’m not complaining) and absolutely deserves the high definition release it received. On top of the killer movie itself, there’s also a strong “making of” featurette that runs around 30 minutes and makes it seem like this movie was very fun to make. Co-Director Thijs Meuwese also gives an engaging commentary track which held my attention long enough to listen all the way through. This is exactly the kind of package I enjoy the most. A quick-but-meaty bonus feature, a commentary track, and a full HD release. For those who aren’t as into physical media, you can also feast your eyes on Molly via VOD! I recommend tracking down Molly as soon as humanly possible.
And I’m Out.
Molly is now available on Blu-ray, DVD, and VOD from Artsploitation Films.