Jovanka Vuckovic’s (XX) debut feature, Riot Girls, is indeed a fucking riot. Vuckovic gives us a post-apocalyptic alternate history 1995 where all the world’s population of adults have been wiped out by a mysterious plague. The film is set in a town divided by a river into an East side and a West side. The East side are the poor kids and the West the rich, run by letterman jacket-wearing jocks.
Riot Girls is a fantastic punksploitation flick in the tradition of Repo Man, Suburbia, and Return of the Living Dead, and more recent films like The Green Room and The Ranger. Some may find the rich (bad) vs poor (good) battle a little clichéd, but they’ve probably never been poor and desperate. Everything is class war in America. Environmental reform? Class war. Voting protections? Class war. Affordable college? Class war. Affordable housing? Class war. Food deserts? Class war. Gun reforms? Class war. It’s always the poor getting the shit end of the stick in every facet of life while the upper class just keeps rolling on like the whole planet’s not on fire.
Starring Madison Iseman as Nat and Paloma Kwiatkowski as Scratch, our title heroines, Riot Girls kicks into gear when Nat’s brother, and leader of the East siders, is kidnapped by the West side. Nat and Scratch, two badass punk grrrls set out on a mission into the West side to rescue him. The action comes hard and shit gets bloody with some really good gore in a couple of moments. Things play out with a very 80s teen action movie feel, like Karate Kid, or a John Hughes film, maybe a little Road Warrior, because these would have still been perfectly valid points of reference for kids of this age. So, it’s really funny to see the jocks behaving like the 80s villains they would have seen in movies.
Vuckovic’s direction is fantastic, bolstered by the really great cinematography of Celiana Cárdenas. Written by Katherine Collins (Lost in Space, Blindspot), the script is tight and concise, never getting lost on side roads or extraneous exposition. The film just sings at a brisk 81 minutes. Then, there’s the soundtrack. You get L7, Joan Jett and the Blackhearts, SNFU, Reagan Youth, 45 Grave…this will definitely be a must-own soundtrack. Iseman and Kwiatkowski are a fantastic duo. I’d love to see Nat and Scratch return for a sequel. The cast is rounded out by a number of great performances by Jenny Raven, Jake Sim, Alexandre Bourgeois, Munro Chambers, and Ajay Friese.
After Riot Girls, I want more Riot Girls. I want more movies by Vuckovic. This is a day one buy for me. Right now, I don’t have a release date for the Blu-ray, as the film is currently playing the festival circuit. But it will hit VOD on October 1, so make sure you give it all your love and support! Hopefully the soundtrack will get a similar release that Jenn Wexler’s kick-ass punksploitation rager, The Ranger, got this year. And, yes, these two movies will pair together very well.