Back in the 1980s cheaply-made post-apocalyptic movies were a dime a dozen, all cashing in on the success of George Miller’s Mad Max franchise and taking advantage of the comparative ease with which a filmmaker could throw some actors in mad costumes and shoot some action sequences in a rusted-out industrial park. They seem to come up less often these days, but when they do it is nice to see one that delivers dividends well beyond its low-budget origins.
Molly (2017), produced in the Netherlands but performed in English, follows a young woman (Julia Batelaan) on the run across a ruined wasteland. She exhibits unexpected psychic powers, which sees her targeted by local gang lord Deacon (Joost Bolt) who seeks to use her in his deadly gladiatorial fights for profit.
Molly is genuinely great stuff. Directed by Colinda Bongers and Thijs Meuwese from a script by Meuwese, it tells a simple and familiar story but does it with energy, smarts, and a strong visual sense. Low-budget cinema is all about measured expectations. There is nothing here on the scale of a studio picture, but there is a palpable sense of effort to squeeze the best results out of what’s available. Beginning with perhaps the best and simplest visual representation of the apocalypse that I have seen, it barrels along – all story, all action, and a bare minimum of unnecessary back story.
When the actors are strong, they feel particularly strong. Julia Batelaan dominates the film as the runaway Molly. She feels realistic and grounded, and more importantly like an original character. These kinds of post-apocalyptic films often tend to wind up resembling one another, but there is a solid attempt here to give the film its own visual identity. Thanks to Batelaan’s talents, Molly immediately expresses vulnerability but later absolutely earns the stamina and resolve she demonstrates by the climax. Even when some of the actors feel a little limited, their presence is strong enough to compensate and provide good entertainment value.
The film’s action may seem a little shaky at first – likely the result of little money and experience on set – but it improves as it goes. The climax – a half-hour rampage edited to resemble a single tracking shot – is genuinely impressive stuff. A brutal rolling fight between Molly and Deacon’s top lieutenant Kimmy (Annelies Appelhof) is worth the viewing alone.
Molly is an outstanding work that will resonate well with its target audience. There is so much to commend: brisk editing, increasingly effective action, entertaining performances, and an exceptional central performance. This all punches above its weight and then some.