It’s a sign of how little most movies channel contemporary experience that the manners and habits and attitudes of the age of Tinder have remained a relatively off-screen topic. This past January, the Sundance drama “Newness,” directed by Drake Doremus (it has yet to be released), was a designer soap opera that had a few telling observations to make about what it feels like to live your life in a digital meat market. As a movie, though, it didn’t quite take hold. The new pulp thriller “Bad Match” is darker, grimier, and more entertaining. Written and directed by David Chirchirillo, who co-wrote the scurrilous violent hipster comedy “Cheap Thrills” (2013), it’s “Fatal Attraction” for the age of the revolving-door hook-up, and in its fevered low-budget way it’s just clever enough to do what it sets out to do. It gives toxic masculinity its just desserts.
Jack Cutmore-Scott, who suggests a randier version of the young Greg Kinnear, plays Harris, a sleazy-smart young L.A. dickwad. He works for an advertising agency, and when he’s not soaking up his time with murder-fantasy video games he’s usually on a hook-up app, where he’ll swipe on 50 women’s photos a day, playing the percentages. He generally winds up in bed with one of them a few hours after they’ve met. Then he sneaks away, never to be seen again, ready to dive back into the shopping mall of sex.
In movies, the cad who discards women as quickly as he finds them is an old trope (if Michael Caine’s Alfie had Tinder, he would have been this dude). But what gives “Bad Match” its twinge of originality is the way that Harris uses technology to seal himself inside an impenetrable bubble of solipsistic male coolness. Even on a date, where his opening gambit is to predict what drink the girl he just met is going to order, he’s staring at her through an imaginary computer screen.
Then he meets Riley (Lili Simmons), a willowy and confident 21-year-old student who seems just as avid in her gullibility as the others, until she fastens onto Harris and won’t let go. She keeps texting, calling, imploring. Is she stalking him? Or is the stalking in the eye of the beholder with the cold shoulder?
Thirty years on, “Fatal Attraction” still looms as a mythical thriller of feminine power. Yes, the Glenn Close character was “crazy,” but she stood in for all the women who ever thought, in the years after the sexual revolution, “I am not just going to be discarded!”
In “Bad Match,” Lili Simmons plays Riley in the same vein, as a spurned object of desire who will lie, manipulate, and shoot over the edge of acceptable behavior, but only to shove her humanity in Harris’ face. She fakes a suicide attempt (a loathsome thing to do — but Harris’ indifferent response is even worse), and by the time she begins to mess with his Twitter account, we’re in a brave new world of payback. Jack Cutmore-Scott, in a strong performance, makes Harris a supremely confident dude coming apart at the seams. When the police knock at his door, and we know in our bones what they’re looking for, the film turns into a cautionary pulp pressure cooker: Live by the digital gaze, die by the digital gaze.
There’s a moment where Riley has snuck into Harris’ apartment and is making a surprise dinner for him, and when Harris discovers her, she’s holding a kitchen knife. Shades of “Fatal Attraction” — but more than that, shades of every cheap thriller that ever introduced a psychological situation only to turn it into something action-y and boring. “Bad Match” often feels like it could become that kind of “ride,” but it never does. It’s something a shade more interesting: a scuzzy bro nightmare.