They spring full-blown from the kitchens and beds of the men they served, hang holsters on their hips and make their way as ex-hookers bent on a new life.

BAD GIRLS

A Illusion review by Joan Ellis.


"Bad Girls" is a good idea that is doomed by a terrible script. There is fun to be had when a dormant genre reemerges in the packaging of a new era, and the Western is now riding full tilt into the '90s carrying new sensibilities about women. Yes, they were there, but what did they do?

In this movie, they spring full-blown from the kitchens and beds of the men they served, hang holsters on their hips and make their way as ex-hookers bent on a new life. Four game actresses - Madeleine Stowe as Cody, Mary Stuart Masterson as Anita, Andie MacDowell as Eileen and Drew Barrymore as Lilly - struggle with bad lines. Ready for a romp, they sink in embarrassment.

Deciding to start a sawmill ("We sold our bodies, why can't we sell wood?") on Anita's Oregon homestead land with Cody's life savings, they trip over various barriers in their effort to flee their desert surroundings.

The barriers, which should create the plot but don't, are erected by Kid Jarrett, Cody's former lover who is supposed to provide the plot's tension but doesn't. The Kid (James Russo) is a most uncharismatic bandit whose sole redeeming characteristic is his open air desert bedroom featuring a mirrored bureau and a bed draped in luscious fabric, a sort of outdoor commercial for luxury living right there in the raunchy, mean Old West.

The whole state, it seems, is hunting the notorious Kid for reward money while the truth of it is that the whiny little fellow seems to be living a short ride from town, presiding over an unimaginably uninteresting bunch of alcoholic simpletons. In the manner of old flames, Cody knows right where to find him when she wants her money back, which makes the journey seem like a quick trip to the cleaners.

The establishment townsmen are dressed in suits, the bandits in dirty laundry and the women in bluejeans and guns - except when, in an inexplicable genie-like poof, they materialize in glorious dresses. Their faces carry smudges to indicate hard work.

The very fine Andie MacDowall is reduced to curling her lip upward to give us a lingering look at her beautiful smile. Mary Stuart Masterson has nothing to do except deliver one nice comment on a timeless culture: "I was worthless till I married, I'm worthless as a widow. I was worth something as a whore." Drew Barrymore does well by her action scenes but has nothing to say. Only Madeleine Stowe is given a chance to draw a character, and she does it well given impossible circumstances.

"Bad Girls" aims for the adventure of "Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid" without understanding the meaning of daring, music or style. Still, it did leave me wishing, among other things I've missed in life, that I might just once have strapped a holster to my hips and leapt onto a flying horse to escape my enemies.


Film Critic: JOAN ELLIS
Word Count: 496
Studio: 20th Century Fox
Rating: R


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