Directed by Sebastian Gutierrez. Starring Carla Gugino, Joseph Gordon-Levitt, Timothy Olyphant, Adrianne Palicki, Emmanuelle Chriqui, Malin Akerman, Kathleen Quinlan, Marley Shelton, Isabella Gutierrez, Ermahn Ospina, Vincent Kartheiser, Justin Kirk, Julianne Moore. (2011, R, 100 min.)
REVIEWED By Marc Savlov, Fri., March 25, 2011
The second film in Gutierrez's Elektra trilogy is, like its predecessor, Women in Trouble, an odd but often laugh-out-loud funny mix of absurdist humor, raunchy backstories, and genuine pathos. It doesn't always jell, but it has its moments, most of which revolve around the eponymous porn star (Gugino), now retired, pregnant, and prone to self-reflection and the occasional moment of doubt … at which point the Virgin Mary (Moore, in an uncredited cameo) materializes to offer some spiritually spot-on life counseling. (It's actually one of the more serious and semi-poignant scenes in the film, believe it or not.) It must be said that Gutierrez is not quite your average filmmaker. Among other borderline surreal résumé highlights, he penned Snakes on a Plane, Gothika, and the Hollywood remake of the Pang Brothers' The Eye. Women in Trouble, with its particularly Almodóvarian titling, introduced Elektra as a decidedly non-parodic character, a fully fleshed-out female who just happens to be a Jenna Jameson-like porn star. Gugino (the once-upon-a-Spy Kids mom, and Gutierrez’s partner and apparent muse) is just as fearless as her director, and she carries Elektra Luxx through its more daffy moments with some seriously calibrated comic timing. Often, though, its the characters – and we do mean characters – who orbit Elektra that are both the most distracting and the most outrageous, not least among them Holly Rocket (Palicki), a malaprop-prone porn actress who, when Elektra confesses she's with child, replies "Is it yours?" A subplot down Mexico way highlights Holly's unrequited love for another porn actress, Bambi (Chriqui), and leads into a black-and-white flashback that recounts the vengeful killing of a Latin American dictator by Bambi's grandmother. Why? I'm not sure, although certainly it plays to Gutierrez's love of strong female characters, irrelevant to the meandering storyline though it may be. Gordon-Levitt returns as porn-film cinephile/blogger Bert Rodriguez ("If it wasn't for Swedish movies in the 1960s, practically all movies today would be about robots!"), Shelton gives the plot some initial forward momentum as an airline stewardess responsible for the death of Elektra's rocker paramour (Josh Brolin) from Women in Trouble. Featuring, as before, music by Robyn Hitchcock, Gutierrez's ongoing Elektra trilogy isn't for everyone's taste, obviously, but it is an utterly unique and highly ambitious project that isn't afraid to veer wildly from witty, risqué comedy to heavy emotional melodrama, often in the same sequence. And the Coen brothers faux-porn one-sheet glimpsed briefly in the background of one scene? Priceless.