‘MaXXXine’ Review: Promises More Than It Delivers, But Goth Is A Shining Star

Kevin Taft reviews MaXXXine, the final entry in director Ti West's X trilogy, which has fun shaking up the genre and setting and going for an 80s Hollywood sex thriller, even if it's not doing anything else terribly innovative.
User Rating: 7

Completing Ti West’s Mia Goth-starring “X trilogy,” Maxxine lights up the screen for an ‘80s-inspired neo-noir thriller that Brian DePalma would have loved.

Continuing the story of Maxine Minx (Goth) from West’s first entry in his spontaneous three-parter X trilogy, we find the final girl ex-porn star trying to make it as a legitimate actress in Hollywood in 1985. She’s a talented go-getter with a mountain of confidence, which helps land her the lead role in part 2 of the popular horror movie, “The Puritan” from director Elizabeth Bender (Elizabeth Debicki), who thinks highly of her art and expects as much from those working with her.

Meanwhile, Maxine works at a strip club while sharing an apartment with gay video store owner Leon (Moses Sumney). She’s trying very hard to become the “star” she’s always wanted to be (and feels she deserves to be), and while things seem to be looking up for her, a rash of murders that may or may not be linked to the notorious “Night Stalker” seem to all circle back to her.

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Because of this, a private investigator named John Lebat (Kevin Bacon) is trying to connect her to the porn murders that occurred on the farm that she and her friends were filming at back in the 70s in X. Soon enough, poor Maxine finds herself in a world of trouble, where her friends are dying, her career is skyrocketing, and someone wants her dead.

Similar in vein to Body Double and Dressed to Kill, this over-the-top violent mystery fulfills West’s aim to make all of his X trilogy films in different genre styles. X had the 70’s grindhouse thing, Pearl was an oversaturated “golly-gee-whilikers” ‘40s romp (with a heavy dose of violence attached), and now we move on to the ‘80s sex thriller.

It’s a perfect choice here, but at the same time, there is something very restrained in his filmmaking this time around. The story generates interest but ultimately doesn’t go anywhere unexpected or reach the grand guignol heights one would hope. Based on the last two outings, it’s easy to expect more.

In that sense, MaXXXine doesn’t really live up to expectations and sort of lands with an “oh, kinda’ fun” but fades from memory soon after.

What doesn’t fade is Goth’s performance, which is consistently layered and complex. It’s funny that the horror community has embraced Goth as if she is some new creature birthed by West five years ago. On the contrary, the British Goth has been doing stellar work in a dozen other movies for years. She has worked with amazing directors (Luca Guadagnino, Clare Denis, Gore Verbinski, Brandon Cronenberg, and Lars von Trier, to name a few), and in 2025, will be seen in Guillermo del Toro’s Frankenstein as one expects, the Bride.

While Goth exhibits a much richer characterization, other name actors run more on the over-the-top one-note side. (That’s how they are written.) Giancarlo Esposito hams it up as Maxine’s agent, Elizabeth Debicki keeps it cold and calculated, Bobby Cannavale is, well, Bobby Cannavale as a detective, while Bacon, no stranger to horror, chews the scenery as the P.I.

All of this is fun to watch (for the most part) and adds to the tone that West is going for. I only wish the script had a bit more bite. For a movie whose title has “XXX’ in it, there is very little about the porn industry in here, and with Goth’s blood-crazed characters in the last two installments, I hoped for something a bit more unhinged.

It’s a fine movie with something to say about the industry itself, but toward the end, it takes a more personal approach for our lead character. The reveals here are unsurprising and almost a let-down, but ultimately, they make sense and circle back to the first film.

While it’s not scary nor terribly suspenseful, go for Goth’s performance and stay for the fun ‘80s nostalgia that bleeds through every blood-soaked frame.

Oh. And guys? Be sure to cover your balls.

MaXXXine opens in theaters on July 5, 2024.

Written by
Kevin is a long-time movie buff with a wide variety of tastes and fixations in the film world. He cried the moment Benji appeared onscreen in “Benji,” and it took him about four times to finally watch “The Exorcist” (at age 24) without passing out. “Star Wars: A New Hope” was the movie that changed everything and when his obsession with films and filmmaking began. A screenwriter himself (one long-ago horror script sale to New Line remains on a shelf), his first film "Two Tickets to Paradise" that he co-wrote premiered in June 2022 on Hallmark. He is currently working on another for the iconic brand.

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