“Red Rocket” a Wry Walk on the Wild Side

In select theatres

A wry walk on the wild side buoyed by a ripsaw of a central performance, an antidote to the confines of cancel culture and a gloriously observant excavation of black-market communities not often chronicled, Sean Baker’s Red Rocket (A-) is mondo movie mayhem from the opening shot to the last. Against the backdrop of gulf-side Texas with equal bursts of imposing industrial complexes, day-glo donut shops and pastel pink bungalows, Baker sets the stage for simultaneous drama, comedy and action as penniless adult entertainer and gifted scam artist Mikey Saber (former MTV personality Simon Rex) returns to the modest home of his estranged wife Lexi (a blissful Bree Elrod), and her feisty mother Lil (Brenda Deiss, also a delight). A promised short stay becomes an escalating series of shock and awe escapades incited by Rex’s despicable but sympathetic antihero with at-minimum balls-out abandon.  Rex is a chaotic force of nature in the role, and viewers have permission to tag along to his Texploits free of moral obligation to agree with his actions. He resembles a Seussian Thing Three with his madcap mannerisms and grab bags of grift; it’s among the most memorable unhinged performances of the past few years. The reunited family at the film’s center is an absolute delight, backed up by a sterling supporting cast including Suzanna Son as a Lone Star Lolita named Strawberry, Ethan Darbone as “driver to the star” Lonnie and Brittney Rodriguez as illegal pharma liaison June. This is a challenging film with daring subject matter; it’s not for the faint of heart nor for family night at the movies. After his lauded and ambitious The Florida Project, Baker’s devil-may-care whirling dervish of a detour is certain to continue his upward trajectory among filmmakers. 

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