Not That There's Anything Wrong With That
Sebastian Gutierrez’s “Electra Luxx” isn’t so much a sequel to 2009’s “Women in Trouble” as it is a 95-minute love letter to girlfriend and star Carla Gugino. The original film only made $18,000, so it’s difficult to see “Elektra Luxx” as anything other than a labor of love (albeit one with some fun cameos and solid casting) that's pointless to the world outside the couple.
As the titular Elektra Luxx, Gugino carries the film in terms of both visuals and performance. She looks fantastic as a banged blond who looks great in a bra and her pin-up-inspired wardrobe, but she also gets ample (deserved) screentime and the opportunity to deliver the film’s best lines. She’s an underrated actress who manages to be perfectly cast as both sexy adult-film-star-turned-community-center-instructor Elektra and--in a brief moment--as her brunette, convicted felon sister Celia.
Seeing “Women in Trouble” isn’t essential to follow the interconnected plots of “Elektra Luxx,” but a quick catch-up won’t hurt. Adult film icon Elektra has left the porn business, pregnant with the child of dead rock star Nick Chapel (Josh Brolin), meanwhile stewardess Cora (Marley Shelton) also slept with Chapel. At the beginning of “Elektra Luxx,” porn aficionado and webshow host Bert Rodriguez (Joseph Gordon-Levitt) tells his viewers (and the film’s audience) of Elektra’s impressive career and quick exit from the business, transitioning to Elektra’s current gig sharing sex tips with housewives at a community center.
There, she meets Cora, who offers an unproduced album’s worth of Chapel’s lyrics--all about Elektra--in exchange for the former adult star’s seductive services. Cora is overwhelmed by the guilt of sleeping with Chapel, and she wants her fiance to commit the same sin with Elektra. Elektra’s adventure drives the story, but the young porn stars from the first film, Holly Rocket (Adrianne Palicki) and Bambi (Emmanuelle Chriqui), are back, too, as Holly struggles with romantic feelings for her friend and costar. Bert’s show--and the attempts of his eager sister (Amy Rosoff) at breaking into the business herself--also makes appearances throughout the film, with everything tying in at the conclusion that points to an upcoming third film in the series.
There’s a bit of Almodovarian melodrama here, coupled with the exploitation-loving sensibilities of Robert Rodriguez and Quentin Tarantino. But while Rodriguez and Tarantino are content to focus on the more violent, grindhouse-style films, Gutierrez and his “Elektra Luxx” have more of the campy sexploitation fun of Doris Wishman and Russ Meyer. But while there are plenty of Meyer’s beloved big bosoms, there are few of his square jaws here. Gutierrez’s film features Timothy Olyphant, Justin Kirk and Gordon-Levitt in small roles, but it’s all about the women who are winking at the camera.
With “Elektra Lukxx,” Gugino proves that she deserves more roles of this heft and size. She’s funny, gorgeous, and entirely watchable, even when the film isn’t. She seems to be having fun, too, and whether that’s the part or the presence of Gutierrez is up for debate. Palicki is delightfully dumb, earning giggles for her awkward injections into conversations, adorable malapropisms, and bouncy presence.
“Elektra Luxx” has its moments, but the overriding reaction is “Why?” Not only did its predecessor not merit a sequel by anyone’s standards, but this is a forgettable film briefly buoyed by lines and energetic performances. Gutierrez wasn’t trying to make an Oscar winner here, but it’s hard to tell where intentionally cheesy filmmaking and production values stops and a lack of talent and money begin. He wrote the silly but self-aware script for “Snakes on a Plane,” but he also directed the humorless “Rise: Blood Hunter.” It may be largely successful in its aims to be a B-movie, but that doesn’t mean that it’s always entertaining and fun. [C+]