Monday, September 26, 2011

The Sex Merchants (2011)

Directed by John Niflheim
Starring Tyrone L. Roosevelt, Jackie Stevens, Mia Copia

"I'm reliable, experimental, and very accommodating when I have to be. All for business, of course."

I'm just gonna come out and say it; I didn't really like this movie. Now with that out of the way, let me try and explain why I didn't like it while also trying to not come off like a jerk. I suppose being a movie reviewer, critic, or just some dumb guy on a laptop (take your pick) inherently puts one in a position to tell people that you think the thing they've worked so hard on and laid everything on the line for sucks, but I still don't feel very good about doing it.

Anyway, such is the case with this little confusion of a film called The Sex Merchants. Firstly, the title doesn't even make sense. Sure it's got sex and there's a guy who buys photos, so I guess he could be called a merchant, but there's only one of him and he's not even in the movie for more than 5 minutes! Small complaint, yes; but I've only just begun.

The Sex Merchants, not being about sex merchants at all, is actually about a young fellow goes by the name of Pete. Young Pete is photographer - an erotic photographer. Pete operates out of his apartment by inviting ladies over to model. Said modeling is mainly based on fetishes: Foot worship, ball gags, bondage, and even some whip action - which Pete handles all by himself.

Besides leaving you wondering how he's getting any decent shots without a camera, the scenes, although amply supplying more flesh than bargained for (did any one say buttholes and vulva?) ultimately become tedious and far less edgy than I think they wanted it to seem. Again, small complaint, but in combination with everything else here (or perhaps lack thereof), it doesn't help any. Well, maybe still a little bit.

"So, this Pete guy takes photos", you say.
Well yes, this is true.
"So, what else is going on here", you ask.
Well, he sells them to an old dude who works at some silly magazine that dares call itself Esoteric, and...ooh! He masturbates obsessively to a recurrent memory and/or fantasy of an unidentified woman rubbin' all up on herself. That's something, right?

As you may have guessed, the lack of a head means we don't know who it is, but we should want to. Oh, and we find out. Now, I can't say it was completely expected, but it also wasn'tunexpected, if you know what I'm saying; which you probably don't, but will if you watch this (which I can't say you should - although I also wouldn't say you shouldn't).

Even though Pete spends the majority of his time thinking about, looking at, surrounded by, and inside (like, sexually) women, he thinks very little of them, believing that all women secretly want to be abused and mistreated. Most of this animosity towards women stems from his controlling and verbally abusive mother (played by Jackie Stevens), with whom he also shares a weird psychosexual relationship with (hint, hint).

Okay, Pete's a misogynistic erotic photographer (check) who likes to abuse women (check), masturbates obsessively (check) and has a bitchy mom (check). What else could make him a complete cliche of a man on the verge of a breakdown (at least in that Afterschool Special meets Cinemax softcore flick way)? A drug problem (ring-a-ding-ding-ding)!

So where I'm going with this is that this dude Pete's got all this drama. Now, this drama could go a few ways. One that I can think of is to make said drama as extreme as possible. Another is to water the content down and make it all preachy and unrealistic. Well, The Sex Merchants did a little bit of both.

You see, my problem here is not the lethargic pacing, the flat acting, or the odd angled 90's indie feel (complete with quirky jazzy score), but instead how painfully serious the film takes itself even with all the opportunities it gives itself to play up the ridiculous situations. Pete's supposed to be an egotistic douche bag whose deep into extreme porn and hard drugs, but it never feels like it ever gets there. Most of the time Pete is just sighing or lackadaisically pontificating about pretentious art philosophy bullshit while every once in awhile making a laughably affected sexist comment in a dismissive manner. Come to think of it, I don't even think they show him doing any drugs at any point in the movie, but somehow we're supposed to think he's totally fucked up on them and desperate for the next hit. His mom is supposed to be a soul sucking wretch, but comes off as no more than a Valium intoxicated Housewife of New Jersey. And don't even get me started on the teddy bear of a drug dealer who asks the forehead grabbing and frantically pacing Peter relatively nicely to at least pay for half of the drugs he brought for him (see,even though Pete is supposed to be this rich ass photographer, he gots no money).

Shit, that's about all I can say about The Sex Merchants. It could have at least been entertaining, but unfortunately that didn't happen. I suppose if you want to give a shot to a movie that feels a little like an unfunny The Room that got really sleepy (and hopefully feel differently than I did about it), you can visit Alternative Cinema, MVD, or whatever place still sells DVDs and pick up a copy.

- Jeremy Vaca

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