Bad Girls (1994)
Bad Girls (1994)

Genre: Western Running Time: 1 hr. 39 min.

Release Date: April 22nd, 1994 MPAA Rating: R

Director: Jonathan Kaplan Actors: Madeleine Stowe, Mary Stuart Masterson, Andie MacDowell, Drew Barrymore, James Le Gros, James Russo, Robert Loggia, Dermot Mulroney, Nick Chinlund, Jim Beaver

 


 

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ddly romantic music introduces Anita Crown (Mary Stuart Masterson), a prostitute in the Old West town of Echo City, Colorado, as she welcomes a regular client into her bedroom. On the street below, protesters march against the existence of the whorehouse above the saloon, hollering about the sins of the flesh. Downstairs, proprietor Cody Zamora (Madeleine Stowe) contends with rowdy imbibers, but she has far greater problems when an abusive john starts shooting. Cody kills the man, arguably in self-defense, yet she’s immediately placed upon a horse to be hung for the deed. Fellow prostitutes Eileen Spenser (Andie MacDowell) and Lilly Laronette (Drew Barrymore) come to the rescue, however, sweeping Zamora away to the temporary freedoms of the dusty outskirts of the city.

In no time at all, the Pinkerton Detective Agency is hot on their trail, aiming to collect a sizable bounty placed by the dead man’s widow. With Cody’s savings, wired to a bank in Agua Dulce, Texas, the four women plan on using a homesteader’s claim in Oregon in the hopes of opening a sawmill – a new life and a fresh start. “We sold our bodies; why can’t we sell some wood?”

“I accuse you of having a scorpion between your legs!” Overly religious groups attempting to crack down on the immorality of harlots isn’t new, but crafting a Western from the viewpoint of female protagonists certainly has its distinguishing charms. Despite the violence, curse word or two, and brief nudity, the severity is fleeting; clearly, the filmmakers decided that their chosen perspective warrants kid gloves. And this tone remains, even when banks are robbed and guns are thrust into faces.

Aiming to squeeze in an abundance of standard Western tropes, there are also shootouts, run-ins with law enforcement (and impromptu deputizing), wily bandits, train-robbing, hostage-taking, dynamiting, horse stunts, and high-speed chases. Unfittingly, time is also made for slapstick and overblown, trite feminine manipulations. The latter tends to go with the conspicuous gorgeousness of the leading ladies, who are unable to hide the glow of their straight, gleaming white teeth and flawless skin under minimal amounts of carefully-placed dirt and grime – as if the random smudge or two makes everything suddenly authentic.

The primary appeal is that the men in the film are all secondary characters or villains (including love-interest prospector Joshua McCoy [Dermot Mulroney] and gang leader nemesis Kid Jarrett [James Russo]); and the women never really need them for help. The female foursome may be victims from time to time, but they’re formidable enough to save themselves, or turn men into pawns, or avoid them altogether in their semi-dangerous trek. Regardless of the scenario, they’re mostly in control; it’s the male roles who make the serious mistakes.

But with the playful music cropping up every so often (Jerry Goldsmith’s score would be quite suitable in a different picture), the predicaments maintain a breeziness that suggests that none of the stars will meet untimely demises (though a rather dark turn does occur when Lilly is momentarily captured). By the end, even with a destructive Gatling gun, these “bad girls” are decidedly no “Wild Bunch”; the action is just too plain to rouse much interest. The worthwhile cast can’t overcome bland storytelling and uninspired scripting.

– Mike Massie

  • 3/10