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January 27, 2000 2:00 AM
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"Rated X" Feels Flaccid

PARK CITY 2000 REVIEW: "Rated X" Feels Flaccid


by Erika Milvy



(indieWIRE/1.27.2000) --
For a movie teeming with sex, drugs and a dollop of violence, Emilio
Estevez's
"Rated X" is conspicuously flaccid. With none of the creative
energy of "Boogie Nights" or the compelling characters of "The People
versus Larry Flynt
," this run-of-the mill biopic about the rise and fall
of the Mitchell Brothers, is a quintessentially made for TV experience.
Distributed by Showtime Network, which boasts "no limits," the film,
despite its plenteous nudity and sex, lacks edge and is hopelessly
marred.


(l-r) In "Rated X", Emilio Estevez and Charlie Sheen star as San
Francisco's famous porn kings, the Mitchell brothers.

Credit: Ava V. Gerlitz

Look alike real life brothers Emilio Estevez and Charlie Sheen play Jim
and Artie Mitchell, a couple of close knit brothers who embark on a
career of innovative pornography in the 70s and 80s in San Francisco.
But the picture, with a snoozer of a screenplay by David McCumber and
Norman Snider, offers no insight into what, in fact, were the ground
breaking elements of the Mitchell's particular brand of fuck flicks.
Insight, in fact, is absent altogether in the face value flick.


Early scenes clunkily establish Jim, the elder as a protective older
brother who saves Artie from an array of tangles including ones with
their tough-guy pop (Terry O'Quinn). This over-stressed dynamic
continues through their lives, until, ultimately, Jim stops saving his
brother.

Once in freewheeling Frisco, the groovy, mod brothers begin to make porn
with a gaggle of hippie helpers including Jim's girlfriend who will
disappear from the film within a few scenes with scant explanation. One
never really gets to know any of the characters in "Rated X" and women
come and go, without ever mustering much personality. But neither do the
brothers Mitchell. Estevez's Jim, is rather bland, his concerns for
Artie's excesses is his main feature. Sheen plays the frenetic, coked-up
Artie, but neither character intrigues. The storyline ticks of
biographical facts in a perfunctory and uninspired manner, from Jim's
college film course to Artie's multiple marriages.


Emilio Estevez directs "Rated X"

Credit: Ava V. Gerlitz


As their stars rise and the money and publicity cascades in, cocaine
becomes a constant presence and much footage is spent on the snorting.
Fame followed by drugs and a cataclysmic spin out of control is tired
formula and Estevez's thoroughly uncreative approach puts the banal plot
front and center and the dull-as-dishwater dialogue leaves one clamoring
for the remote control.


The X oeuvre "Beyond the Green Door" gives the filmmakers cash and
cachet, but its exceptional qualities are never made plain. Its star,
Marilyn Chambers, is a somewhat refreshing female in this tale, who
shrewdly demands a hefty sum. Though she seems to make and shake their
world, she too disappears without a trace in this slipshod picture. The
Mitchell's enlist the FBI to help them battle the mob, but this, more
interesting component, is left to dangle.

Estevez does not incorporate the tenor of the times to his advantage.
Hairstyles and duds communicate the 70s in San Francisco, but the
soundtrack is largely generic and the social upheavals and politics are
merely glimpsed at. A small band of women protest pornography in the
late 70s, but the subject of feminist response to porn is given short
shrift. The shifting, lopsided camera angles and a good rainstorm
strive to infuse tension at the climax, but the brother's final standoff
is unmoving. We've been given no good reason to give a hoot about either
bald pornographer.

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