Habit is a film about a trio of young women who impersonate nuns in order to collect donations to replenish stolen drug money. It’s the kind of wild excursion that you might expect to be trashy, exploitative fun. Instead, it’s an 80-minute bore. Bella Thorne (whose many credits are highlighted by lead roles on TV shows Shake It Up, Famous in Love, and the new Paradise City) leads the group as Mads. She’s backed up by partners in crime Evie (Libby Mintz) and Addy (Andreja Pejic). Their drug dealer is former actor Eric (Gavin Rossdale, himself a former rock star, having fronted the band Bush).
And, in a bit of stunt casting that doesn’t really amount to much, Paris Jackson (the late King of Pop’s daughter) turns up as Jesus. Depending on one’s personal sensibilities, that might raise hackles. But honestly, anyone sitting down to watch a gonzo drugs-guns-and-(fake)-nuns flick should probably already be primed for faux/forced “outrageousness.” The writer-director of Habit is Janell Shirtcliff, an actress making her maiden voyage as director (cast member Libby Mintz co-wrote). The marketing hype suggests Habit is something of a Tarantino-style thriller. “Early Tarantino,” actually, is how the studio (Lionsgate) puts it.
I get it—even a dud like Habit has to be pushed somehow. But Shirtcliff’s film plays much more like the glut of ’90s-era Tarantino copycats, if anything. Heightening the old school vibe is the presence of ’80s/’90s indie fave Ione Skye in a small supporting role (her brother Donovan Leitch produced Habit, along with Thorne and Mintz). There’s a scattershot vibe throughout its 80 minutes, suggesting a less-than-coherent vision. As mentioned, the disappearance of a ton of drug cash leads to the women posing as nuns, but a series of tangents takes the story way off the beaten track.
It takes patience to get the big Paris Jackson cameo, a vision that Thorne’s Mads perceives. Jesus, as depicted here, is a lesbian. That apparently (and, I guess, predictably) caused a big ruckus in some circles. Of course, being that Jackson’s appearance isn’t a terribly significant part of the movie (in terms of screen time), the oh-so-heated controversy gave the movie a bit of publicity it would’ve otherwise never garnered. Had those who were offended by the very notion of this particular portrayal simply remained quiet about it, Habit would’ve slunked off into obscurity even faster than it already has.
Technically, Habit is quite well made, at least—Rain Li’s cinematograph is inventive and evocative. Lionsgate’s Blu-ray (which include a Digital HD download code) includes absolutely zilch in terms of supplements.