- Rated R
- Buy the DVD
All photos © Samuel Goldwyn Films
Reviewed by Jason Zingale
t’s only been 16 months since the release of the micro-budget comedy, “Women in Trouble,” but that hasn’t stopped director Sebastian Gutierrez from rushing out the second installment in his proposed trilogy, which debuted at last year's SXSW film festival. There wasn’t much outcry for a sequel, but considering just how fast and cheap these movies are to make, there probably wasn’t any time to wait around to find out. But whereas “Women in Trouble” featured a series of fun, interconnected stories anchored by a clever script and strong performances from its mostly female cast, “Elektra Luxx” only offers a sliver of what made the first movie one of 2009’s underrated gems.
Picking up a few weeks after the events of “Women in Trouble,” the film opens with adult film star Elektra Luxx (Carla Gugino) still coping with the news that she’s pregnant. Now teaching a class on making love like a porn star at the local community center, Elektra’s life is turned upside down once again when a woman named Cora (Marley Shelton) arrives in town with an interesting proposition: help ease her guilty conscience of cheating on her fiancé (Justin Kirk) by sleeping with him, and in return, she’ll give Elektra the lost lyrics to the final songs written by her late rocker boyfriend (Josh Brolin). On the other side of town, porn blogger Bert Rodriguez (Joseph Gordon-Levitt) mourns Elektra’s exit from the adult film industry, only to be horrified to discover his sister (Amy Rossof) is interested in breaking in to the business, while Bambi (Emmanuelle Chriqui) and Holly (Adrianne Palicki) head to Mexico for vacation.
To say that either plotline is integral to Elektra’s story would be pushing it, however, because while they do eventually come together in the end, “Elektra Luxx” isn’t as much of an ensemble effort as the first film. You needn’t look any further than the title of the movie to know that it’s predominantly about Elektra, and although Carla Gugino is great as the blonde bombshell (even getting a chance to show off her diversity playing Elektra’s lispy twin sister in a flashback sequence), it just doesn’t have the same charm as “Women in Trouble.” Only a handful of actors return for the second go-around (including Joseph Gordon-Levitt, whose role has been expanded beyond his short cameo), while many of the new characters, like Timothy Olyphant’s private investigator and Emma Bell’s cheating wife, aren’t on screen long enough to make an impression.
Thankfully, Emmanuelle Chriqui and Adrianne Palicki are also back for more, because they’re easily my favorite characters of the series. Palicki, in particular, steals the show as the lovesick amateur porn star, earning big laughs nearly every time she opens her mouth. Gutierrez is great at writing interesting female characters, and although the script isn't as sharp as in the previous film, it remains his biggest strength. But as a director, it’s a completely different story. Though Gutierrez certainly deserves points for experimenting with everything from black-and-white flashbacks, to fantasy sequences and musical numbers, none of them feel particularly necessary and prove to be quite distracting. Granted, "Elektra Luxx" has its moments, but after seeing how much could be accomplished with so little in “Women in Trouble," it's hard not to be disappointed.
Single-Disc DVD Review:
Sony has dumped “Elektra Luxx” onto DVD with only one extra: a trio of deleted scenes that, although entertaining on their own, were understandably cut from the finished product. Though it’s hard to expect much from an independent movie, it’s a little odd that they didn’t at least include an commentary by writer/director Sebastian Gutierrez.