Judge Patrick Bromley wonders where Jennifer Garner is.
From adult film star to functioning adult.
It's always kind of funny to me when small indie films get sequels. It doesn't happen all that often; Before Sunrise got Before Sunset and Hal Hartley followed up Henry Fool years later with Fay Grim, but most small movies are more of the one-and-done variety—they're not developing franchises. And, yet, here we are in the middle of the summer movie season in which almost every weekend we're getting a new sequel or remake or reboot or whatever, so it only makes sense that the smaller movies should follow suit.
On the basis of his last two films, 2009's Women in Trouble and its follow up, the new-to-DVD Elektra Luxx, writer/director Sebastian Gutierrez would be happy spending the rest of his career doing movies about the titular Luxx (played by the filmmaker's real-life girlfriend, Carla Gugino of Sucker Punch), a former (and now pregnant) porn superstar who has given up the business and is searching for new meaning in her life. It's a little surprising to me, actually, that Gutierrez has seen fit to make two movies about Elektra Luxx, though, because I'm not sure he's quite figured out even one film's worth of a story yet. He's drawn to the character for some reason—and I would applaud any movie that finds a way to keep Carla Gugino in various states of underpants—but the truth is that she's just not very compelling.
Which may explain why he's surrounded her with colorful supporting characters in both movies. While Women in Trouble played as much more of an ensemble piece, Elektra Luxx is much more Gugino's show. She has retired from porn and is teaching classes about how to make love like an adult film star, but various connections to the business keep on popping up. There's her rock star ex-boyfriend, who died in Women in Trouble; the flight attendant who was with him when he passed (Marley Shelton, Planet Terror) has now come to Elektra begging forgiveness, returning missing song lyrics and asking for a very unusual favor. A private detective (Timothy Olyphant, Scream 2) is interested in getting his hands on the missing lyrics, too. A porn blogger (Joseph Gordon-Levitt, Killshot) continues his obsession with Luxx, ignoring the advances of a checkout girl (Malin Ackerman, Happythankyoumoreplease) who likes him. Elektra's former co-star, Holly (Adrianne Palicki, Legion), is still smitten with her best friend Bambi (Emmanuelle Chriqui, Entourage) and can't find a way to tell her.
Though it's not necessary to have seen Gutierrez's last film, Women in Trouble, to follow Elektra Luxx, it certainly helps. It provides the introductions and backstory for a lot of these characters, and the new film makes several references to the old one (I say old despite the fact that they're a year apart) that you wouldn't otherwise get. The trouble here is that Elektra Luxx feels less like a standalone movie and more like a continuation of Women in Trouble. I get it; it's a sequel and all. What I mean is that Elektra Luxx barely functions as a movie. It only works as a continuation of the characters from the first movie, and your enjoyment of it will depend entirely on your affection and your desire to see more of the characters in Women in Trouble. That movie, at least, could justify it's own existence—it was about something more. Elektra Luxx feels like another episode of a possible TV series and not much more.
Which isn't to say there aren't things to like about it. Not surprisingly with a cast this good (I didn't even mention Kathleen Quinlan or Vincent Kartheiser or Julianne Moore in an unbilled cameo), everyone is fun to watch and very appealing—though I'm growing more and more suspicious that Joseph Gordon-Levitt needs a firm hand to reign in his performance, and I don't know if he got that kind of direction here. I like what Gutierrez is attempting with these films. I think I described Women in Trouble in my original review as a Vincent Sherman-style melodrama crossed with John Waters; Elektra Luxx feels more like a mix of Pedro Almodovar and Russ Meyers, and I mean that in the best way possible. It's just that the movie, told in short vignettes in much the same way that Women in Trouble was (though less overtly so), doesn't amount to much. The scenes need to work as little short films that play on their own but gain greater resonance from the way they interact with the others. Instead, some stuff happens.
Sony's DVD of Elektra Luxx (it doesn't appear to be even getting a Blu-ray release like its predecessor) is nothing special. The movie is presented in its original 1.78 widescreen ratio, enhanced for 16x9 playback (which pretty much goes without saying these days). It was shot on video and hasn't transferred over particularly well—the whole thing looks soft and flat, and while there are no scratches or flaws or anything of that nature, it's not a particularly good-looking image. The 5.1 audio track is serviceable, though at times the volume of the dialogue is at odds with the much-louder music on the soundtrack, so be wary of how high you turn up that knob to hear the conversation. The only extra that's been included is a collection of three deleted scenes featuring characters and situations that are referred to elsewhere in the movie, but which we actually get to see played out. In one, Levitt interviews an adult film star for his internet show; in the second, a character's suspicions about his partner's infidelities with a landscaper are confirmed. In the third (and best) scene, Lucy Punch and husband Eric Stoltz (not seen anywhere else in the movie, meaning his only work on Elektra Luxx ended up on the cutting room floor—it's Back to the Future all over again) try to establish ground rules for the three-way tryst they're about to have.
I have a rule that I've talked about before, which is any movie with Carla Gugino is a good deal better than the same movie without Carla Gugino. Elektra Luxx passes that particular test. It doesn't have much else going for it to recommend it. The movie's laughably abrupt ending indicates that Gutierrez isn't done telling the story of Elektra, but I'm not sure that's a good idea. He may want to quit while he's not really ahead. Of course, if there is another sequel, I'm sure I'll see it. Take that for what it's worth.
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