Reviewed by Colin Jacobson (June 26, 2011)
No matter how many times movies with reasonably notable participants go straight to video, it continues to surprise me. 2011’s Elektra Luxx did get a theatrical run – on four screens for a total gross of about $10,000.
When it showed up on the PR e-mails I get, I thought it sounded like it’d be worth a luck. Super-hot Carla Gugino as a porn star? I’m in!
Star adult actress Elektra Luxx (Gugino) retires from the business when she becomes pregnant. To fill her time, she teaches a sex-ed class to women at a community center. Her rock star boyfriend died recently, and she finds out this occurred during a sex act with a flight attendant named Cora (Marley Shelton).
Elektra learns this when Cora approaches her with a proposition. Cora feels guilty that she cheated on her fiancé Benjamin (Justin Kirk) so she wants Elektra to seduce him and even the score. Elektra declines, but rethinks the idea when she sees how hot Benjamin is.
Or so she believes. Due to some complications, Elektra beds Dellwood Butterworth (Timothy Olyphant), a private detective who attempts to locate some missing lyrics written by Elektra’s dead boyfriend. This starts an odd relationship of sorts between Elektra and Dell.
In addition, the movie follows two other occasionally stories. Elektra’s dim-witted porn actress friend Holly (Adrianne Palicki) takes a trip with her girlfriend Bambi (Emmanuelle Chriqui) where they attempt to milk some guys. Bert Rodriguez (Joseph Gordon-Levitt) runs a website devoted to adult actresses, with an emphasis on Elektra. His sister Olive (Amy Rosoff) tries to add some exclusive adult content – shots of herself – but Bert disapproves.
At the risk of seeming like King of the Horndogs, I have to say this up-front: Luxx disappoints in the skin department. It includes a grand total of two nude shots: we see a scrawny guy’s butt after he gets locked out of his apartment, and we see Elektra’s behind as she rises from a bathtub. The latter’s pretty nice, but it’s brief and not what we’d expect from a movie that follows this one’s subject matter.
Leave the absence of substantial skin out of the mix and Luxx still delivers a lackluster movie experience. The main problem stems from the odd decision to develop the two additional plotlines. If the movie needs the tales about Bert and Holly, I can’t figure out what purpose that might be.
Perhaps the final 100-minute Luxx comes chopped down from a much longer, more ensemble-oriented version. The DVD’s deleted scenes add credence to this notion, as they show scenes that indicate an even broader focus beyond the final product’s three main plots. I get the feeling writer/director Sebastian Gutierrez wanted to make a multi-character piece that revolved around the title character but didn’t really focus on her.
That’s not what the end product delivers, though, and the film’s halting attempts at an ensemble film harm it. As noted, the flick does spend the majority of its time with Elektra, so the times we leave her don’t make much sense. I really can’t figure out why we go visit Bert and Holly, respectively; their stories get chopped to the bone and add nothing to the experience.
Even Elektra’s tale feels abbreviated and disjointed. Rather than develop her as a woman at a crossroads, Elektra seems vague. She occasionally shows concerns about her future – what’s a middle-aged porn star to do? – but mostly we just see her amble about and not do much of anything. The film even throws in fairly useless diversions like Elektra’s visit to see her sister in prison. Sequences like this should add some depth, but instead, they become so fragmented that they just muddy the waters even more.
At least the actors make the most of it. Gordon-Levitt delivers some laughs as the stereotypical horny Internet guy who lives in his mother’s basement, and the others do their best to elevate their sketchy roles.
They just don’t have enough to work with to do so. If Elektra Luxx showed more consistency and/or purpose, it might fly. If it delivered greater wit or insight, it could succeed. If it simply followed a reasonably coherent narrative, it could’ve been enjoyable. It does none of these, though, so it ends up as a mildly entertaining but ultimately frustrating mess.