Tuesday, July 2, 2024

‘MaXXXine’ Review – Ti West’s Trilogy Closes Out With Inert Tribute to the ’80s

Maxine Minx (Mia Goth) emerged as the sole survivor of writer/director Ti West‘s X, a proto-slasher harkening back to the gritty grindhouse era for her tenacity and ruthless ambition. Its closing moments signaling Minx’s unique zeal might’ve had a lot to do with her religious upbringing. The second entry in West’s trilogy captured the technicolor vibrance of Hollywood’s golden age to contrast the psychosis of Maxine’s would-be killer, Pearl (also Goth). For the trilogy’s closer, MaXXXine, West channels the sleazy thrillers and Gialli of the video nasty era to see Maxine’s relentless pursuit of fame reach its apex, but the over-commitment to the era’s films renders Maxine’s story inert.

Set in Los Angeles in 1985, Maxine’s well into her quest for stardom. We’re reintroduced to the atypical protagonist after she’s already dominated the porn industry and looking to greener pastures: Hollywood. The aspiring starlet crushes an audition for a popular horror movie’s sequel, but it’s not getting the part that’ll prove tricky for Maxine. It’s keeping it, thanks to a series of murders happening closer to Maxine. As if the murders, seemingly Satanic in nature, weren’t enough, Maxine’s past traumas threaten to resurface in various violent ways.

Maxxxine Giancarlo Esposito and Mia Goth

MaXXXine firmly adheres to the ’80s spirit of excess, not just in the way that Maxine keeps a stash of cocaine on hand for a bump whenever she needs one, but in the dizzying large cast of recognizable talent playing colorful characters. Elizabeth Debicki steals every scene as the put-upon, no-nonsense film director who’s an Artist with a capital A, a potential conduit for West to convey his own frustrations. Giancarlo Esposito brings the appropriate level of sleaze to his entertainment lawyer role, while Kevin Bacon overdoes it as the dogged private eye John Labat. Moses Sumney brings the heart as the sweet but sarcastic video store clerk with a vast knowledge of horror, while Michelle Monaghan and Bobby Cannavale riff on the archetypical good cop/bad cop routine as homicide detectives. That’s only a fraction of the cast roster, which speaks to just how broad and scattered this installment is as Maxine rushes between the various plot threads. 


Ti West continues his knack for painstaking recreation here, not just meticulously recreating the vibe of the era but its filmic output. That means, like the sleazy Gialli and Brian De Palma-style thrillers of the period, MaXXXine quickly cycles through the set pieces and its characters like surfing through cable channels. It also means that many of the scenes are superfluous, servicing character arcs or world-building over narrative flow. West eschews the character portraits of the previous films to instead wield Maxine like connective tissue; Maxine guides us through the murky waters of the Hollywood system, the peak of Satanic Panic, and the seedy L.A. underbelly all within the span of a week or so. It’s a lot of ground to cover without the focus or room to develop a grounding theme other than paying tribute to a specific stretch of cinematic history. 

Mia Goth as Maxine Minx

But at least Maxine isn’t nearly as forgotten here as the horror. West checks off certain boxes, like the mysterious black-gloved stalker pursuing Maxine, but MaXXXine is so scattershot that a body count barely develops. The practical effects and gore, when there, are exquisite, but it’s often pushed to the background in favor of hurtling Maxine through her very bad, hectic time trying to make it as a star. One death, in particular, induces a commendable scream of sympathy pain, but it has no bearing on the narrative outside of establishing Maxine further as one you don’t want to mess with. The bulk of the deaths come in the film’s clunky and unsatisfying finale, the type that takes shortcuts and relies on heavy camp. It might be in line with the era’s output, but that doesn’t make it successful. It’s further unhelped by just how predictable it all is; there’s only really one possible suspect for the mysterious gloved figure, and the lack of suspense throughout doesn’t help with the reveal.

Maxine Minx is a star, and Goth embodies the role so fully that there’s never any doubt she’ll manage to overcome any obstacle. Her laser focus and fortitude drag a movie that has no focus beyond its cinematic tributes to the finish line. There are bursts of greatness here. Glorious kills, inspired shots, or electric scenes between actors haphazardly cobbled together around homages to L.A., Hollywood, and West’s trilogy itself. There’s no question that MaXXXine has style, but it suffocates the superficial story so thoroughly that it becomes an uninspired pastiche.

MaXXXine releases in theaters on July 5, 2024.

2 skulls out of 5



The post ‘MaXXXine’ Review – Ti West’s Trilogy Closes Out With Inert Tribute to the ’80s appeared first on Bloody Disgusting!.


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