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By Matt Singer

IFC News

[Photo: “Badland,” Arcangelo Entertainment Inc., 2007]

“Badland”‘s writer-director Francesco Lucente clearly feels strongly about the Iraq War and its impact on returning veterans. But perhaps he feels a bit too strongly. There’s an old expression about how people making decisions should “remove emotion from the equation,” and I think Lucente could have benefited from following that advice. There’s potential here, but it’s marred by a clunky screenplay that emphatically hammers its point home over and over again for 160 endless minutes.

Jerry (Jamie Draven) is an Iraq vet struggling to make ends meet in a crummy job and to keep his sanity in a crummy marriage. Quickly, he reaches a breaking point, and murders his wife and two sons. But when he
turns his gun on his little daughter Celina (Grace Fulton) it jams, and he ultimately relents. So Jerry packs up Celina and travels the Midwest and Upper Plains until they find a romantic comedy setup to hunker down in, where Jerry stumbles into a relationship with and job working for the cute owner of a small-town diner.

“Badland” joins a lengthy list of recent films that tell aggressively angry stories from the Iraq War home front, including the similarly themed (and equally heavy-handed) “Home of the Brave” from Irwin Winkler,
as well as Paul Haggis’ slightly more mainstream “In the Valley of Elah.” “Badland”‘s particular contribution to this ongoing dialogue is a portfolio of poetic images of golden hour landscape from cinematographer Carlo Varini (particularly impressive on a relatively low budget) and some moments, mostly early in the film, of quiet reflection that suggest a sense of loss in ways that Lucente’s screenplay unsuccessfully strains to achieve again.

He’d be better off letting his images speak for themselves, rather than pelting us with obvious exposition like this mouthful we get from a remarkably pensive TV reporter: “Mr. Rice’s apparent murder-suicide follows a recent and tragic trend among a number of returning reservists from Iraq. Some
find their jobs illegally denied them, their families facing financial ruin. Many find themselves unable to cope.” Indeed, the best moments are the ones without words, like a potent scene where Jerry paces back and forth in an increasingly erratic pattern (fingering a cigarette, shoving it in his mouth, tossing it away) after receiving an ominous phone call. Dialogue would have only gotten in the
way of Draven’s performance (partly because the English actor’s Midwestern accent isn’t exactly on point).

Sadly, Lucente can’t resist doing the opposite most everywhere else in “Badland,” explaining and overexplaining and reexplaining his points. Even the score, which wouldn’t have sounded out of place on a
very special episode of “Highway to Heaven,” won’t leave well enough alone. I appreciate the film’s good intentions while also acknowledging what good intentions sometimes pave the way to.

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The Best Of The Last

Portlandia Goes Out With A Bang

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The end is near. In mere days Portlandia wraps up its final season, and oh what a season it’s been. Lucky for you, you can watch the entire season right now right here and on the IFC app, including this free episode courtesy of Subaru.

But now, let’s take a moment to look back at some of the new classics Fred and Carrie have so thoughtfully bestowed upon us. (We’ll be looking back through tear-blurred eyes, but you do you.)

Couples Dinner

It’s not that being single sucks, it’s that you suck if you’re single.

Cancel it!

A sketch for anyone who has cancelled more appointments than they’ve kept. Which is everyone.

Forgotten America

This one’s a “Serial” killer…everything both right and wrong about true crime podcasts.

Wedding Planners

The only bad wedding is a boring wedding.

Disaster Hut

It’s only the end of the world if your doomsday kit doesn’t include rosé.

Catch up on Portlandia’s final episodes on demand and at

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Your Portlandia Personality Test

The New Portlandia Webseries Is Going Your Way

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Carrie and Fred understand that although we have so much in common, we’re each so beautifully unique and different. To help us navigate those differences, Portlandia has found an easy and honest way to embrace our special selves in the form of a progressive new traffic system: a specific lane for every kind of driver. It’s all in honor of the show’s 8th and final season, and it’s all presented by Subaru.

Ready to find out who you really are? Match your personality to a lane and hop on the expressway to self-understanding.

Lane 10: Trucks Piled With Junk

Your junk is falling out of your trunk. Shake a tail light, people — this lane is for you.

Lane 33: Twins

You’re like a Gemini, but waaaay more pedestrian. Maybe you and a friend just wear the same outfits a lot. Who cares, it’s just twinning enough to make you feel special.

Lane 27: Broken Windows

Bad luck follows you around and everyone knows it. Your proverbial seat is always damp from proverbial rain. Is this the universe telling you to swallow your pride? Yes.

Lane 69: Filthy Cars

You’re all about convenience. Getting your car washed while you drive is a no-brainer.

Lane 43: Newly Divorced Singles

It’s been a while since you’ve driven alone, and you don’t know the rules of the road anymore. What’s too fast? What’s too slow? Are you sending the right signals? Don’t worry, the breakdown lane is nearby if you need it.

Still can’t find a lane to match your personality? Check out all the videos here. And see the final season of Portlandia this spring on IFC.

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Last-Minute Holiday Gift Guide

Hits from the '80s are on repeat all Christmas Eve and Day on IFC.

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GIFs via Giphy, Photos via The Everett Collection

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