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Film: Love Lies Bleeding  
Cast: Kristen Stewart, Katy O`Brian, Ed Harris, Dave Franco, Jena Malone, Anna Baryshnikov, Orion Carrington, Catherine Haun
Director: Rose Glass
Rating: 3.5/5
Runtime: 104 min

Flashily original Brit director Rose Glass delivers a distinguished lesbian neo-noir in her second feature which follows on the heels of her 2019 horror ‘Saint Maude’ ( which incidentally did not release in India). This film is a brooding hallucinatory spiel drenched in stirring night scenes, violent crime and hardcore action.

Rose Glass serves up raw sex, bloody criminality and messy clean-up in a scintillating free-wheeling style that is neither retro nor sequestered nor reminiscent of any other form. The style inherent here is all her own and it’s gut-punching.

We first see Lou (Kristen Stewart) as manager of a gym owned by her local crime boss father Lou Sr. (a seedy balding hippy played by Ed Harris). It’s a given that he has a finger in almost every business in the small desert town in rural New Mexico in and around 1989. Simultaneously we are also introduced to Jackie ( Katy O’Brian), a bisexual drifter from Oklahoma, homeless, living under a bridge, whom we first see in the back seat of a car, with JJ (Dave Franco) who is pounding away at her from behind. That act is transactional as she is looking for a job and he offers to get her one at the firing range which Lou’s Dad owns. Jackie is a bodybuilder, thick arms, ripped abs et al, preparing herself for a competition set to happen in Vegas. So she goes to the gym meets Lou and lightning strikes…or is it love?

Lou and Jackie go out to dinner with Lou’s sister, Beth (Jena Malone), and her frequently abusive husband, who happens to be JJ. While Lou might not be able to do anything about her sister’s philandering and abusive husband, Jackie feels no such compunction. Fueled by steriods and uncontrollable angst she sets off a frenzy of crimes that has Lou doing clean-ups without much success.

Written by Glass and fellow filmmaker Weronika Tofilska, the screenplay swerves around without inhibitions. There’s no restraint here. The narrative is bold, brutal, sexy, violent and sprays it all on with an energy that is gravitating. It feels as though the narrative itself is on steroids.

When Jacie gets riled, we hear and see her muscles bulging, crackling, and growing. It’s a kind of metaphor signaling that the steroids have taken control over her actions. Her trip to Vegas to participate in the bodybuilding competition, turns into a wreck though.

Glass is in total control of the narrative even if she gives us the impression that she is not. She throws several ambitious punches along the route – some though don’t comlpletely land. Especially the final frenzied act which acts as a downer to what could have been a glorious ending for this ultra-violent neo-noir love story. It’s probably an audacious attempt at doing something different but it doesn’t work. Even so, Glass’ narrative is continuously gritty, bloody, dirty and full of surprises propelled by Clint Mansell’s brilliant score and commendable performances from Stewart and O’Brian.

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