(director/writer: Rose Glass; screenwriter: Weronika Tofilska; cinematographer: Ben Fordesman; editor: Mark Towns; music: Clint Mansell; cast: Kristen Stewart (Lou), Katy O’Brian (Jackie), Jena Malone (Beth), Anna Baryshnikov (Daisy), Dave Franco (JJ), Ed Harris (Lou Sr.); Runtime: 104; MPAA Rating: R; producers: Andrea Cornwell, Oliver Kassman; A24; 2024-UK/USA)

“How much you like this film depends on how much tolerance you have for the pulsating queer thriller.”

Reviewed by Dennis Schwartz

Director Rose Glass (“Saint Maud”) and co-writer Weronika Tofilska present this offbeat, toxic, destructive, off-the-rails, queer love story between a pair of bad asses. It’s in the style of an 80s grind-house film, that’s both sexual and violent. It plays as a cult “midnight” movie–a psycho-noir Western with relentless shocks.

It’s set in a dusty small town in the New Mexico desert, in 1989.

The tomboyish Lou (Kristen Stewart) is the lonely manager of a a dumpy gym owned by her mean son of a bitch, gun-runner crime boss, estranged dad, Lou Sr. (Ed Harris). Her main job at the gym is laminating the membership cards and constantly unclogging the stuffed old toilet.

Jackie (Katy O’Brian) is a drifter, new in town (training for an upcoming bodybuilding competition in nearby Las Vegas), and is a tough lady, who takes no crap from either a man or a woman. She’s a muscular aspiring bodybuilder, someone Lou can’t take her eyes off when she first sees her at the gym. It’s a love at first sight romance, as they immediately screw.

Though Jackie is drug-free, Lou treats her to free steroids to get her hooked.

Violence occurs when Lou’s married sister Beth (Jena Malone) is severely beaten by her abusive, womanizer, redneck husband JJ (Dave Franco).

The ditsy lesbian gossiper, Daisy (Anna Baryshnikov), who is smitten with Lou, witnesses Jackie and Lou as they dump a body. Being in the wrong place at the wrong time leads to a violent third act.

The convoluted and unpredictable film, that subverts logic for over-the-top violence, offers comedy from its misogynist characters and surprises to a familiar story.

How much you like this film depends on how much tolerance you have for the pulsating queer thriller.

It played at the Sundance Film Festival.

REVIEWED ON 1/30/2024  GRADE: B-