Jerome Holm (Kodi Smit-McPhee) lives with his father and sister on a farm that has hit troubled times ever since the environmental crisis hit America, leaving a water shortage that has affected crops, never mind the general population who are thirsting for sustenance. His parent Ernest (Michael Shannon) has no qualms about shooting at those who would try to steal his own personal water supply, which his son witnesses in traumatic scenes when ne'erdowells attempt the use of violence to get their way and are cut down by Ernest's quick on the draw technique. Sister Mary (Elle Fanning) is mostly stuck at home, taking care of the domestic duties, but there's one man who could offer her a way out...
When Young Ones was released in the United Kingdom, the distributor changed the title, possibly because audiences there wouldn't have wanted to see what sounded like a Cliff Richard movie, or because they thought there was too strong a recognition with the eighties sitcom that has by law to be described as "anarchic", but mostly it seems its new title of Bad Land: Road to Fury was implemented to fool potential viewers that this was somehow connected to the Mad Max: Fury Road blockbuster opening at the same time. Whether that gamble paid off was a moot point, but the fact remained there were not a whole load of folks raving about this the way they did the Australian franchise.
You'd be hard pressed to find anyone very much singing Young Ones' praises aside from the manufacturers of a robot mule that featured heavily; it wasn't a special effect, it was a genuine product that walked on four legs and appeared able to cross all sorts of difficult terrain, so much so that characters waste no time in not only putting it through its paces but also frequently thumping it to demonstrate how it simply refuses to fall over no matter how it is treated. It even suffers a hail of bullets in one scene and manages to return itself to the supplier for repair, which may well lead one to believe we were not so much watching an apocalyptic science fiction movie and more watching a feature length advertisement for a product developed by a popular internet company.
But there was a plot, and yes it did present a piece of hardware as an essential item of kit, not only to the storyline but to the viewer with enough cash to splash on it. That plot was an update of the Western morality tales most obviously used in the genre during the fifties, where the stakes grew higher and the landscapes of the Wild West, if anything, even wider, so Jerome has to face up to the fact that his father may not have been the greatest guy in the world - supposedly reformed alcoholic, put his wife in an institution where she has become a sort of robot - but he doesn't deserve what ultimately happens to him, and Jerome must mull over the possibility that he must now take revenge and presumably become a man that day, that sort of business.
All very well if it were delivered straightforwardly, all the better to throw that morality into sharp relief, but in practice director Jake Paltrow (brother of Gwyneth Paltrow) didn't have a firm enough hand on his material. Therefore in spite of the plot points necessary to the development of Jerome more or less struck fair and square, too much of the time it was letting its mind wander into character bits such as the teen having to journey to the repair depot and meeting another teen (Liah O'Prey) who guides him through the obstacles of the city, but seems to promise more significance than she ever provides. Nicholas Hoult was the second lead according to the credits, and he offered a degree of black hat villainy as the man who seduces Mary and threatens Ernest, giving Jerome the jolt into adulthood that he needs, though even the reason for that is hazy and presumably it would have been preferable to become more self-sufficient without all the palaver that Paltrow put him through. Still, it was well photographed and one manufacturer would be delighted. Music by Nathan Johnson.