Love Lies Bleeding (2024)
Love Lies Bleeding (2024)

Genre: Crime Drama and Thriller Running Time: 1 hr. 44 min.

Release Date: March 8th, 2024 MPAA Rating: R

Director: Rose Glass Actors: Kristen Stewart, Katy O’Brian, Ed Harris, Jena Malone, Dave Franco, Anna Baryshnikov

 


 

A

urally distressing, eerie sounds punctuate the score before transitioning to rave music at the Crater Gym, where unsociable employee Louise “Lou” Langston (Kristen Stewart) unclogs a toilet – an act that the camera refuses to shy away from, including by focusing on an arm digging deep to pull thick clumps of sewage from a watery reservoir of brownish masses. These yucks combine with the sci-fi horror soundtrack to feel very much like “Under the Skin” or “Mandy” (or “Black Swan,” with the subsequent sequences of striving for perfection), as if the inhabitants here are not of this Earth. It’s part of a setup that establishes a distinct grunginess; gross food, gross habits, gross facilities, gross hairstyles, and even gross sex are on display, specifically highlighting as many unglamorous factors as possible, long before character development is bothered with.

The grubby look of everything (set in the late ‘80s) isn’t unique, though there’s the briefest of respites when Jackie (Katy O’Brian), who has been hitchhiking from Oklahoma with the goal of getting to Las Vegas for a bodybuilding competition, bothers with brushing her teeth after sleeping under a bridge. Although both Lou and Jackie tend to appear cleaner than their cohorts, the visual intention is to depict ugliness, as if the transgressions of these sinners are illustrated on their exterior figures. Damaged loners seeking, almost futilely, a human connection amid pitiable, disagreeable people is the formula, and they’ll have to battle through savage individuals to obtain it. But not a one is truly sympathetic. The lone unique aspect is O’Brian’s physique, which would make her exceptional in an action-packed adventure. Sadly, “Love Lies Bleeding” is anything but adventurous – and she barely gets to employ her considerable musculature in any meaningful way, despite clashing with brawny opponents or personas in desperate need of a good punching (the tagline of “Revenge Gets Ripped” is accurate in only the most superficial way).

Instead, this picture dwells on a love story that is also riddled with unsightliness, such as needles and chain-smoking and Hulk-like metaphorical manifestations. The romance is also a quick, love-at-first-sight frippery, adorned with sweat and nudity and toe-sucking, but relying heavily on unconvincing montages and jokey character details like Lou reading the book “Macho Sluts.” Eventually, the duo gets on the wrong side of the law, as well as on the nerves of a gunrunner (Ed Harris) with plenty of corrupt connections, careening down the path of a revenge thriller. “He’s beyond sickening.”

Unfortunately, despite a role or two demanding comeuppance, there isn’t much worthwhile revenge to be had, nor thrills to be witnessed. The anticipation of violence and catharsis isn’t badly designed, but the execution is virtually nonexistent; satisfaction in both bloodshed and revelations tends to escape the players at every turn. On their downward spiral into crime (and the extreme coincidences that disappointingly accompany wayward souls out of their element), every action becomes predictable and every outcome obvious. Consequences and gravity elude them as well, especially when they exist in a realm of false severity, rather than a comedy like “Drive-Away Dolls” (released just a couple weeks earlier), which dealt with similar themes but in a whimsical manner. Crime may be tricky, but Lou and Jackie are unbelievably rash when putting themselves in harm’s way (to be fair, the drug abuse fuels some of the foolhardiness, but ineptitude of this level isn’t believable outside of a comedy), tripping through confrontations that ought to be handled with greater sincerity. By the end, as “Love Lies Bleeding” tries much too hard to be edgy and weird, its efforts to appear intense and different merely cause it to feel routine and uncreative – and with a notably inconsistent entertainment value. “You don’t know anything about love!”

– Mike Massie

  • 3/10