For reasons he won't appreciate, you gotta applaud the consistency of writer/director Sebastian Gutierrez. He took everything that didn't work in his 2009 sex comedy Women in Trouble and ported it right over to its sequel, Elektra Luxx. The lack of momentum, the scenes without end and the soft-core camp are all there to frustrate us anew. A charmingly hardened Carla Gugino reprises her role as the titular porn star, still pregnant and now coping with retirement. Gugino and the rest of the mostly female cast clearly savor the chance to strip and swear in a free-play environment, which is a nice way of saying the film is hopelessly flabby and lacks coherence. Quality aside, Elektra Luxx should benefit from new distributor Samuel Goldwyn, a step up from the previous film's Screen Media.
"You're going somewhere with this, right?" Elektra asks one of the students attending her course on partner-pleasing sex. We know how she feels. We're two films into the lives of these characters and they're still no more than delivery systems for Gutierrez's hack dialogue, which is delivered in bulk. Still pregnant with the child of her deceased boyfriend Nick, Elektra is asked a favor by Cora (returning Marley Shelton), another of Nick's conquests. Cora is so remorseful after cheating on her fiancé that she wants Elektra to seduce him as a way to assuage her guilt. As payment, Elektra will receive Nick's cache of lyric sheets featuring songs about, naturally, Elektra. Our heroine agrees, then accidentally seduces the wrong man, a detective (Timothy Olyphant) hired by Nick's band to retrieve the lyric sheets. While this unfolds, Gutierrez brings in supporting characters from Women in Trouble, some with thin or even nonexistent ties to the primary action. Such dedication to bloat is puzzling since Gutierrez has shown he has the chops to write mainstream films (Snakes on a Plane). If he's indulging himself after a run of for-hire projects, that only proves he needs a strong producer to rein him in. Too many scenes are too long and feature too much blabber. Compared to that, the shoddy production doesn't seem so bad. There are a handful of sloppy edits, the set-ups are plain Jane and, in one scene, Gugino accidentally bumps the camera.
If Gutierrez is making any statement, it comes during the film's interminable opening monologue from blogger and Elektra-groupie Bert Rodriquez (encoring Joseph Gordon-Levitt). "Porn stars are people, too," he says, asking us not to let the red light backdrop color our opinion of the character's actions. A sharper filmmaker could have worked that into a risqué tweak of assumptions and expectations. Instead, Gutierrez tries to have it both ways. There's lots of suggestive clothing-removal and the best passages tantalize with the possibility of lesbian sex between dopey Holly (Adrianne Palicki, showing the right amount of ditz) and her secret crush Bambi (Emmanuelle Chriqui). The duo's trip to Mexico saddles Palicki with some real groaners (Holly knows she's not "the sharpest stool in the shed") so it's a miracle she actually engages our sympathy. Their south of the border sojourn best represents what Gutierrez wants Elektra Luxx to be: a good-natured, campy, sex romp with a stealthy undercurrent of emotion. But he's so enamored with his own script that he can't see how rambling and disjointed it is. We've got black and white sequences, a musical number and a cameo by the Virgin Mary. The idea that Bert blogs from his mother's basement is a zinger that stopped zinging long ago. And poor Amy Rosoff is asked to overplay her role as Bert's sister, desperate for stardom as an internet porn sensation. Actually, desperate is the optimal word to describe this second film in a trilogy that Gutierrez obviously sees as a labor of love. It is desperate for laughs and desperate to be embraced for its eccentricities.
Distributor: Samuel Goldwyn
Cast: Carla Gugino, Connie Britton, Adrianne Palicki, Emmanuelle Chriqui, Marley Shelton and Timothy Olyphant
Director/Screenwriter/Producer: Sebastian Gutierrez
Rating: Rated R for strong sexual content, nudity and language.
Running time: 101 min.
Release date: March 11, ltd.