Billy Bob Thorton Investigates a Strange Murder in The Badge

Aug 11, 2003
Review by  
Rated a Very Helpful Review

Pros:Interesting plot

Cons:Too many subplots. Flat characters.

The Bottom Line: I have seen better movies, but The Badge was entertaining. It is worth seeing, especially if you happen to be a Billy Bob Thorton fan.

On a recent trip to rent a movie, I ended up coming home with The Badge. I’d never heard of it before, but it did sound interesting. The movie did have some problems, but it turned out to be fairly good. It was entertaining.

A woman ran in front of a semi truck late one night outside of a small town in Louisiana. The truck over turned along the side of the road. The driver got out and couldn’t find the woman anywhere.

The new day, Sheriff Darl Hardwick was investigating the accident. The semi had been full of shoes and they were all over the place. Darl and his deputies were gathering up the shoes and giving them out to people. Darl took several pair for himself. Then one of the deputies discovered the body of a woman on the other side of the road in a marshy area. She had no identification and no one recognized her.

When the body was examined by the coroner, he discovered something that was a bit different. It was downright strange for their small town. From the waist down, the body had male parts. From the waist up, the body had female parts. Darl had no idea how to deal with that. The coroner explained a few things to Darl and a deputy about how the victim could have parts of both genders. Word about the victim quickly spread through town. People called the victim a freak. The Judge, who was also very powerful in town, told Darl not to put much effort into the investigation. Judge was worried about a story leaking to the press in a bigger town and giving the town bad publicity.

A woman named Scarlett turned up in town looking for her missing friend. Scarlett identified the body as Mona. Scarlett also told Dawl that she was Mona’s wife. Darl was really thrown by that. He had some trouble when he was asking her some questions about Mona and actually started laughing at one point. Darl had to go deal with another problem, so he told Scarlett to wait at his office. She went out and started asking questions around town about Mona instead. Scarlett wanted to find out what had happened to Mona. Darl seemed to become more interested in the investigation.

While Darl was trying to find out who murdered Mona, there was other stuff going on in town. A casino was going to be built with the support of the governor. There was a local religious group, led by Sister Felicia, that was against the casino. An election was coming up again soon, and Darl learned that the party was going to replace him on the ticket. He wasn’t going to just give up, so he was going around getting signatures so he could run as well. Darl had some family problems as well, with his father Bull and with his estranged wife Carla. Then Darl was charged with something and railroaded into accepting a plea. That meant he was no longer the sheriff. Darl didn’t stop investigating Mona’s death though. He even traveled to New Orleans looking for answers. He thought that there was a cover up of some kind at work and he wanted to find the truth.


Billy Bob Thorton - Sheriff Darl Hardwick
Patricia Arquette - Scarlett
William DeVane - Judge
Sela Ward - Carla Hardwick
Julie Hagarty - Sister Felicia
Marcus Lyle Brown - Deputy Jackson
Tom Bower - Bull Hardwick
Ray McKinnon - Deputy C.B.

Written and directed by Robby Henson

The Badge was made in 2002 and rated R. The movie was 103 minutes long. I rented the DVD version of the movie. I found it in the new release section. From the research I did online after watching the movie, it looks like The Badge was made for a cable movie channel. There was swearing throughout the movie. This was not a movie that children should see.

The Badge was a murder mystery. I think it was supposed to be a suspenseful thriller, but I didn’t really find the movie to be that suspenseful. I did think the movie was entertaining and it kept my interest. There were one or two surprises tossed into the movie, but it wasn’t a movie that kept me on the edge of my seat. I didn’t figure out who the killer was ahead of time, though it did make sense once everything was explained. There weren’t many clues at all. Once the movie was over, it did seem like one small clue did point to who the killer turned out to be, but it still seemed like Darl stumbled into discovering the truth. Once he was following up on the one clue, something said carelessly lead him to other clues that definitely connected the killer to the crime. If that one thing hadn’t been said, Darl wouldn’t have done more looking and found the other evidence.

There were a few subplots in The Badge. It seemed like to me that they were just taking focus away from the main focus of the investigating into Mona’s death. They were just extra complications that really didn’t need to be in the movie. The fact that Mona was different and murdered in a very small town would have been enough. There were some people around, like Judge, who didn’t want Darl to do too much investigating. Darl going against Judge to continue investigating would have been enough. There was no need to throw in problems in Darl’s family and his conflicted feelings about Scarlett.

There really wasn’t any violence in The Badge. Mona was murdered, but it wasn’t shown. He body was shown when it was found and again at the morgue. Near the end of the movie, when Darl figured out what had happened, a flashback turned up showing what happened, but it wasn’t that graphic. There were some things in the movie that could offend some viewers. Mona and Scarlett had an alternative lifestyle. It really wasn’t said for sure if Mona had been planning on having an actual sex change operation to change her lower half as well. I really don’t know what the correct term for her would be. There were a few characters that were gay and it was shared that they were gay. Anyone who has a problem with that shouldn’t see the movie. I know that sexual orientation and sex change operations can be a volatile subject for some people. Anyone who is upset by those things shouldn’t see this movie. After word spread around town about Mona, she was called a freak by many people who never met her because she was different. Some characters were very prejudiced and they shared their views. Some people that aren’t as narrow minded in their thinking could be upset by the bigotry and hatred expressed in the movie. This movie will offend some people.

The characters in The Badge were fairly flat and one dimensional. There was no depth to anyone. Darl was the main character, but he stayed quite flat, though he was more developed than any of the other characters. I’m not sure why Carla was in the movie. She only turned up a few times, usually to make some nasty comment to Darl. I did figure out that they had been married, but I’m not sure if they were actually divorced or just separated. I don’t think the movie ever said for sure what their relationship was. If it did, I missed it. Darl learned some things about Mona while trying to find her killer, but not that much. Scarlett turned up every so often, but she wasn’t developed much at all. Darl had some sort of strange attraction to her, and he started to act on it once - even though he didn’t know if she was like Mona or not - and then that was all there was to it. There really wasn’t a resolution to that either, though they did continue to work together to find the killer.

The acting in The Badge wasn’t award worthy, but it was good. Billy Bob Thorton was in almost every scene of the movie and he did a good job with his part. He was believable as Darl. I’ve seen him in some other movies like Bandits and Pushing Tin. I usually enjoy his performances. Sela Ward had a few scenes as Carla. There really wasn’t any point to her character being in the movie. She was wasted in this role. She was good, but she just didn’t have much to work with at all. Patricia Arquette was fine as Scarlett. I’ve enjoyed her in other movies, but I’ve never been that impressed with her performances. She sang a little in one scene of this movie. It didn’t sound too good. I’m not sure if just her voice was bad or if the song wasn’t good. It may have even been the wrong key for her. At the end of it, she seemed to change to a higher key and I thought it sounded better. That was the end of the song, so I really couldn’t tell if it was her or the song. I’ve never heard her sing before.


Darl Hardwick - Sheriff of a small Louisiana parish. He did a few shady things. His marriage was either over or in shambles. He wasn’t going to just step aside for a new sheriff and he wasn’t going to stop investigating. He made some bad choices and was conflicted about some things. He was determined once he made up his mind.

Scarlett - A woman who arrived looking for her missing friend Mona. Scarlett then claimed to be Mona’s wife. Scarlett was a dancer in New Orleans where she and Mona had lived. Scarlett wanted to find Mona’s killer.

Judge - Powerful man in the parish. He seemed to be pulling all the strings. He didn’t want Darl to investigate Mona’s murder.

The Badge was an entertaining movie, though I have seen better. It is worth catching if you want a mystery to watch or are a fan of Billy Bob Thorton.

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