Director – Peter Howitt, Screenplay – Kevin Leeson & Bobby Mort, Producers – Jamie Goehring, Kevin Leeson & Kevin Leslie, Photography – Kemal Derkaoui, Music – Rich Walters, Visual Effects – VFX Cloud (Supervisor – Anju Patil), Special Effects Supervisor – Jak Osmond, Production Design – James Robbins. Production Company – Great Point Media/Lighthouse Pictures/Okanagan Media Limited
Gina Carano (Attica Gage), Ryan Robbins (Thomas Jackson), John Hannah (Doc), Dean S. Jagger (Lear), Stephanie Bennett (Melena), Patrick Gilmore (Sheriff Grubbs), Patrick Sabongui (Womack), Luvia Peterson (Chavo), Bart Anderson (Bradshaw)
It is after The Cloud Fall where the Earth has been devastated by catastrophic weather caused by the melting ice cap. Gage acts as a bounty hunter in the wastelands near the township of New Montana. She stops marauders from attacking a group of pilgrims during which she is forced to shoot the gang’s leader Chavo. Back in New Montana, she learns of a big bounty going out for Thomas Jackson, the leader of the lawless Defiance settlement nearby. Realising it would be too dangerous to go in as a bounty hunter, Gage impersonates Chavo. In Defiance, she is welcomed by Jackson but faces the danger of recognition from others who know the real Chavo. At the same time, she is wound into Jackson’s schemes to capture everyone in the area to use as slaves in digging a silver mine he has found.
Scorched Earth comes from Peter Howitt, a British actor who turned director with the Gwyneth Paltrow alternate timelines film Sliding Doors (1998). Howitt has maintained an uneven directorial career in the two decades since with the likes of the computer-tech thriller Antitrust (2001), the moderate hit of the Rowan Atkinson spy comedy Johnny English (2003), the romcom Laws of Attraction (2004) and Dangerous Parking (2007), as well as various tv work.
Scorched Earth was a long time in development. I thought it had some potential in reading the premise before watching but it soon becomes apparent not long in that the film is a desperately unoriginal rehash of the cliches that have set into the post-holocaust genre ever since Mad Max 2 (1981). About the only major difference we get is that the film is set in the aftermath of an environmental catastrophe rather than post-nuclear.
Mad Max 2 was also a rehash of an earlier genre that coincidentally dropped off at the same the post-holocaust film rose – the Western. That influence becomes even more apparent in Scorched Earth. The plot could easily have been transplanted from any B Western – the small peaceful town ruled by a sheriff; the loner bounty hunter; the black-hearted villain and his gang of gunslingers; various action set around saloons; the floozy with the heart of gold; the attack on the peaceful wagon train of pilgrims. There has been precisely zero effort made to reimagine these for the science-fiction genre.
Despite the hopes that I had for Scorched Earth, it emerges as completely unmemorable, no more than a piece of throwaway product made for cable. Peter Howitt’s orchestration of the action elements is utterly unengaging. The lead role of the bounty hunter is played by Gina Carano who comes to the part as a former champion MMA fighter who moved into acting with Steven Soderbergh’s Haywire (2011) and has appeared in a handful of films. The even greater disappointment of Scorched Earth is that it casts someone like Carano who has great fighting skills only to then give her next-to-no opportunity to show them off.