Star Rating:


Director: Ti West

Actors: Mia Goth, Elizabeth Debicki, Moses Sumney

Release Date: Friday 5th July 2024

Genre(s): Crime, Horror

Running time: 104 minutes

Los Angeles, 1985. Having survived the so-called Texas Pornstar Massacre, Maxine Minx (Mia Goth) is about to make the jump from the porn world to the film world with a starring role in 'The Puritan II', written and directed by Elizabeth Bender (Elizabeth Debicki). However, a series of violent murders across the city are tied directly to Maxine, LAPD detectives Torres (Bobby Cannavale) and Williams (Michelle Monaghan) begin investigating just as a private investigator (Kevin Bacon) emerges with ties to Maxine's past...

In a lot of ways, 'Maxxxine' feels like the most obvious setting for the kind of movie that 'X' set itself up for. After all, horror and porn coalesced in the '80s with talents like Marilyn Chambers and Traci Lords working with the likes of David Cronenberg and John Waters in widely-released movies such as 'Rabid' and 'Cry-Baby'. With that in mind, 'Maxxxine' sets itself bang smack in the middle of the Satanic Panic and the Moral Majority just as third-wave feminism was starting to take shape. Yet, with all of this fertile ground to play around in, and a strong cast using enough hairspray to cut a hole back in the ozone layer, 'Maxxxine' never feels quite as sharp and effective as it hopes to be. There's a sense that the setting is doing more work than the script.

Mia Goth's performance as Maxine Minx isn't subtle by any means, but it speaks to her own progression that she's able to command the screen for much of the movie and keep you locked in for all of it. The supporting cast has its peaks and hollows. Kevin Bacon is inspired casting as a greasy private investigator in the same vein as the late great M. Emmet Walsh in 'Blood Simple', playing it with full Southern drawl and flop sweat. Elizabeth Debicki, in contrast, feels far too restrained and serious for a movie that is anything but. Bobby Cannavale and Michelle Monaghan play a decent double-act as two hapless LAPD detectives circling the gruesome murders like they're in a failed police procedural, while Moses Sumney makes a great film debut as videostore clerk Leon. The rest of the cast - singer Halsey, Lily Collins, and Giancarlo Esposito - amount to essentially extended cameos, though Goth plays off them beautifully.

For much of 'Maxxxine', it's a dark and sultry thriller with slices of shock horror thrown into the middle of it. There's a recurring theme of women being chewed up and spat out on the Hollywood Hills by creepy film producers, all while Maxine Minx is trying to get deeper into the belly of the beast. The difference, as she sees it, is that she's able to take care of herself. Where 'Pearl' had a lot more texture and nuance in her performance, 'Maxxxine' feels broader and less defined. It's not to say that it lacks for something specific - quite the opposite. If anything, it hurls so much at the screen that it becomes almost indistinct and kind of sloppy. It also doesn't help that the climax feels like a cheat rather than a satisfying conclusion.

Ti West's direction is confident and assured with a hazy, grimy feel to it that's bound to keep gorehounds and VHS fanatics satiated, but when compared to other modern horror-thrillers that traffic in the same kind of nostalgia - such as Prano Bailey-Bond's excellent 'Censor' or Rose Glass' 'Love Lies Bleeding' - it doesn't quite have the same edge to it.