By Brian Orndorf
In the grand tradition of “Critters 4” and “Hellraiser 7” comes “Elektra Luxx,” a sequel to a motion picture few actually saw. It’s a ballsy move, but writer/director Sebastian Gutierrez doesn’t seem fazed by the challenge, again assembling a crisscrossing tale of Los Angeles love in ruins, surveying the urges and woes of those permanently stuck inside their own heads. It’s an overly talky and scattered feature, but so was 2009’s “Women in Trouble,” leaving any true appreciation of Gutierrez’s latest effort to those who’ve already sample the previous film.
Now retired, porn queen Elektra Luxx (Carla Gugino) has decided to concentrate on her unplanned pregnancy, teaching sexology classes to eager women as a way to pay the bills. Unsure of how to process her mistakes and life choices, Luxx remains in a state of worry, looking for someone to trust after years spent distancing herself from the world. On the other side of town, Holly Rocket (Adrianne Palicki) is facing deep feelings for prostitute pal Bambi (Emmanuelle Chriqui), looking for her opportunity to confess her desires. Also spinning around this world is porn blogger Bert (Joseph Gordon-Levitt), who attempts to trace Luxx’s rise and fall, and Cora (Marley Shelton), whose adulterous guilt over Luxx’s dead rock star boyfriend is threatening to drive her mad.
“Women in Trouble” represented Gutierrez’s move into a more cerebral state of creativity after his previous picture, the rancid “Rise: Blood Hunter,” died a righteous box office death. Switching focus, the filmmaker elected to feast on Altman and Allen leftovers, orchestrating chatty vignettes featuring an assortment of wounded women facing crisis from all sides. If you didn’t happen to see “Women in Trouble,” you’re in the majority, making “Elektra Luxx” a real curiosity. After all, to make sense out of the feature requires knowledge of the previous film, and to have seen the previous movie will likely discourage a viewing of the sequel. Still, I have to admire Gutierrez’s tenacity to revive his monologuing world of woe, even when it’s clear there’s no audience for it.
If “Trouble” was about confession, “Luxx” takes on seduction, again wading into the waters of neuroses with a gaggle of ladies, each with their own secret to keep, only for this picture there’s definitely more sharing involved. Newly structured, with the camera stylings of Bert acting as connective tissue, “Luxx” looks to solidify Gutierrez’s approach, taking larger narrative bites, chewing on the persuasion and worry longer to make a more substantial impression. The performances are competent in that respect, able to communicate the proper frustrations and irritations, but the bottom line remains: Who cares?
“Luxx” feels even more like a writing exercise for the filmmaker than “Trouble” did, again soaking up random pathos, often undercut by diluted flashes of cleverness and the film’s fumbled efforts at sensuality. The stories rarely provide an emotional or spiritual jolt, often staggering around without a fine point. If “Trouble” come across constipated, “Luxx” feels unnecessary, throwing in a musical number and a few star cameos to wake up a dead concept. I applaud Gutierrez’s determination, but the world of a retired porn star without the profound sensation of sin keeps the picture inert — a second feature merely reinforces the feeling that the filmmaker is beating a dead horse.
Obviously, Gutierrez is crazy about Gugino, his real-life girlfriend (“Luxx” being their sixth collaboration), with much of the picture devoted to showcasing the actress’s range and innate sexuality. Too bad there’s little else here to appreciate, with the ending’s promise of a third installment making the whole enterprise seem like an elaborate prank.