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'MaXXXine' review: Mia Goth and Ti West end horror trilogy with style

Courtesy of A24

 

If 2022’s slash-tastic “X” was an ode to grimy, mid-seventies exploitation flicks ala “The Texas Chainsaw Massacre” and it’s equally impressive, and small by comparison, follow-up, “Pearl,” existed in its own demented, technicolor fever dream, then writer-director Ti West’s engrossing, and similarly taunt trilogy capper “MaXXXine” tries to blend all the elements together for one last hurrah. Mia Goth is once again in the driver's seat and, if the previous films taught us anything, it's that there's nothing she isn’t capable of doing. It can sometimes be messy, and there’s an argument “MaXXXine” could be the weakest of the three installments, but taken as a unit, with both “X” and “Pearl,” there’s plenty to admire. 


The film is as much an ode to the art and seriousness of moviemaking in the same way “X” showcased the almost feral nature that comes with shooting a low-budget adult film. West makes the most of what I assume was minimal cash flow (A24 rarely shells out beyond the $10 million dollar range), and successfully creates a lush, dark and brooding eighties-set Hollywood landscape that shows no mercy. 


Sort of like Goth’s Maxine Mink, an adult film actor who, five years prior, survived what people in the universe refer to as the Texas Porn Star Massacre, the origins of which were then explored in the prequel “Pearl.” The tough-as-nails actress is desperate to be seen as a serious performer and constantly repeats her mantra: “I will not accept a life I do not deserve.” Her luck pays off when a prestigious filmmaker (Elizabeth Debecki) casts her as the lead in “The Puritan II,” a schlocky follow-up to what’s now considered a cult classic. 


But her past as a way of catching up to her, and when a mysterious killer dubbed “The Night Stalker” begins dismantling folks within Maxine’s orbit, it brings to light a lot of questions and snoopers. Including that of a shady, private detective (Kevin Bacon - gold toothed and going absolutely balls to the wall in the film’s most cheekily over-the-top performance) who is following Maxine at the behest of an unseen client who may or may not have ties to the infamous killer that’s got everyone in tinseltown, including Maxine, on high alert. 


In addition to both Debecki and Bacon, West has assembled a hellacious ensemble to round out the cast, from pop-star Halsey playing an adult film actress, Giancarlo Esposito’s take no prisoners entertainment lawyer to Bobby Cannavale and Michelle Monaghan as a pair of detectives eager to question Maxine about what she knows in relation to the Night Stalker’s recent killing spree. Which only throws her on the defensive and to double down on what has been a ruthless path to stardom. 


Though not as comparatively gory as its predecessors, West still finds ways of mixing blood with a few satirical elements. Not to mention the soundtrack, consisting of Judas Priest, Hall & Oates, Tears for Fears, Madonna, and Kim Carnes, is a certified banger. If only West had managed to deliver a payoff that was worth the build-up. The ending is somewhat predictable, and not entirely fulfilling for those who have stayed on this train for the last two years. But when a movie is doused in this much style and creative flair (plus some truly gruesome deaths), it’s easy to watch Goth do her thing and forget the rest. She’s been the glue who has held this unlikely franchise together and “MaXXXine” is a worthy display of her talents and solidified what we already knew: she’s a star.  


Grade: B 


MAXXXINE is now playing in theaters. 


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