MaXXXine while entertaining, is missing the X-factor of its predecessors

by Gordon Shelly

Ti West’s “MaXXXine” concludes the trilogy that began with “X” and continued with “Pearl,” both of which starred Mia Goth. As a direct follow-up to “X,” “MaXXXine” aims to maintain the distinctive style and aesthetic that made the first two films stand out. While West succeeds in preserving the gritty, nostalgic feel, the story presented in “MaXXXine” unfortunately falls short of the compelling narratives of its predecessors. This final chapter in the trilogy feels more like a missed opportunity rather than a fitting conclusion, failing to capture the same level of intrigue and horror that “X” and “Pearl” delivered.

Set in 1980’s Los Angeles, “MaXXXine” delves into the sleazy underbelly of Hollywood, where hopefuls like Maxine Minx, played by Mia Goth, strive to make it big. The backdrop of the Night Stalker killings adds an ever-present threat, heightening the tension as Maxine navigates her new life. Following the harrowing events of “X,” Maxine aspires to transition from adult film star to legitimate actress. However, her journey is fraught with danger as women around her are brutally murdered. The viewer is aware that Maxine is not the killer, but her dark past and her “X-factor” — highlighted in the first movie where she turned into a killer — cast a shadow over her every move.

Supporting performances by Michelle Monaghan, Bobby Cannavale, Giancarlo Esposito, and Kevin Bacon add some depth to the film, but they are not enough to compensate for its shortcomings. While Mia Goth remains a dynamic presence on screen, her character in “MaXXXine” feels more restrained and victimized compared to her previous portrayals. In “X,” Maxine was a bold and confident individual who resorted to violence for survival. “Pearl” showcased the main character’s descent into madness as she took control of her life in a disturbingly unhinged manner. However, in “MaXXXine,” Maxine is never truly in control, despite West’s attempts to portray her as such. This shift in character dynamic undermines the strong, assertive persona established in the earlier films.

The movie does, however, have a lot of fun with its 80s retrospective, capturing the era’s aesthetics and cultural nuances effectively. From the neon lights to the synth-heavy soundtrack, “MaXXXine” nails the visual and auditory vibe of the decade. This nostalgic element provides some entertainment value, but it also highlights the film’s weaknesses. The vibrant, chaotic world of 1980’s Hollywood serves as a colorful backdrop, but it cannot distract from the lackluster story and character development.

The strengths of “X” and “Pearl” make the flaws of “MaXXXine” even more glaring. Both previous films had a clear vision and compelling arcs for their lead characters, with Mia Goth delivering powerful performances that anchored the narratives. In contrast, “MaXXXine” feels disjointed, with a plot that struggles to find its footing. The murder mystery element, while intriguing, fails to build the same level of suspense and engagement. The character of Maxine, who should be the driving force of the film, is reduced to a more passive role, diminishing the impact of her journey.

While “MaXXXine” tries to wrap up Ti West’s trilogy with style, it ultimately falls short of the bar set by “X” and “Pearl.” Despite strong performances from the cast and a vividly recreated 1980’s setting, the film’s story lacks the compelling elements that made the first two installments memorable. Mia Goth’s portrayal of Maxine Minx remains captivating, but her character’s arc is less satisfying this time around. While “MaXXXine” offers some nostalgic fun, it fails to deliver a truly engaging and cohesive narrative, making it a disappointing conclusion to an otherwise impressive trilogy.

Gordo’s Grade: C+