Bad Girls (1994)

Director: Jonathan Kaplan

Starring: Madeleine Stowe, Mary Stuart Masterson, Andie McDowell, Drew Barrymore, James Russo, James Le Gros, Dermot Mulroney

Written by: Ken Friedman, Yolande Finch, (story) Albert S. Ruddy, Charles Finch and Gray Frederickson

Running Time: 99 mins

Original Cert: 15

Original UK release: 1st July 1994

Bad Girls was always going to be a film that I was going to like regardless of all it’s problems. It has a neat twist in the fact that it’s cowgirls instead or cowboys. It has a cast of very talented and beautiful women in the leads and it ticks all the western cliches boxes. The latter, however, is the film’s downfall.

Cody Zamora is a prostitute who, along with three friends, Anita, Eileen and Lily, are run out of town when Cody shoots a client. With the Pinkertons following, Cody and the girls try to head north to start a new life but her past as a part of a notorious gang of bandits catches up with her and so she has to forget about her plans until she can get revenge.

The film is a bit messy. With all its pre-shooting problems (a complete change of director, script and direction) is a little obvious and it seems that Jonathan Kaplan and the new script wanted to have every element of the western genre on screen. It certainly does that but what it also does is try to cram it all in as quickly as possible, so they are ticked off as they appear. In the first ten minutes, we get a shooting, an almost lynching by Evangelicals, a runaway cart with horse stunt, all filmed in a dusty orange.

From this point on the story jumps from one contrived incident to another as we get train hold-ups, face-off, gunfights and a jail break. For all it’s feminist views as well, the girls seem to rely very heavily on the males to  “save” them although they are not completely useless with their guns.

The other problem is one of the castings. Madeleine Stowe is perfect as Cody, a woman you’d believe to be feminine  while as tough as old boots and she proves it here. Mary Stuart Masterson, another excellent actress, brings a quiet naivety to her character while Drew Barrymore is at her least annoying as sassy Lily, in fact she gives one of her better performances.

The problem I have with the casting is Andie McDowell. She seems very out of place here. Far too glamourous to be either a prostitute or a cowgirl and she doesn’t look right compared to her co-stars. I know that many find Ms McDowell a problem as an actress, she is fine in fluffy rom-coms but here she needs to be tough and she cannot pull it off.

The men in the film are split into two camps: the angelic heroes (James LeGros and Dermot Mulroney) or evil bandits (James Russo and Robert Loggia). On the whole the men are after one thing (and usually get it) and especially Russo’s stereotype Kid Jarrett, he is an abuser who you know will get his comeuppance.

There is an impression by the end that the film makers were hoping for a sequel but this never happened and nearly 20 years on, I don’t believe it will ever happen. Barrymore made it quite public that she was unhappy with the production, calling it “The Pits”, even though she does such a good job.

As far as satisfying my western needs, I was quite happy. So it doesn’t and won’t rate up there with the greats of the genre, as a piece of a time waster, it’s fine. Massively flawed, yes but compared to some lesser westerns of the time, this is acceptable.

3/5

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