(2023, 78 min)
Director: James Demitri
Studio: TLA Releasing
What do you get when you throw an outrageous drag queen, her bestie, a smoking hot gigolo and a porn star in to a blender? The sexiest, most hilarious Aussie film since Priscilla: Queen of the Desert of course! The Winner Takes It All sees drag megastar Maxi Shield embark on a crass crusade of revenge after her best friend finds her super-hot, maybe not so straight (ok, he's super gay), husband cheating on her. What follows can only be described as the most insane, hysterical and unashamedly steamy saga ever set to celluloid.
Trashy and absurd, this Australian comedy shamelessly wallows in its low budget production values, blatant product placement and narrative insanity. And since it stars a large drag queen, the spirit of John Waters is very strongly felt here. James Demitri's skills as writer-director are definitely rough around the edges, but his passion for both filmmaking and these characters is clear. And that makes the movie disarmingly endearing.
When wealthy socialite Kiki (Marchi) asks best pal Maxine (Shield) whether she should trust her hunky husband Hunter (Kornisiuk), Maxine reminds her that he's a slutty gigolo. Indeed, Maxine is sleeping with him, worried that he's cheating on her too. Of course he is. When Hunter finds Kiki murdered, he's afraid to call the police. So he hides her body, and tells Maxine to lay low. He also asks his secret pornstar boyfriend Randy (Stratton-Smith) to keep his distance. Then Hunter disappears with Kiki's cash, and both Maxine and Randy set out to find him.
Much of the camerawork is sharp, although the movie feels somewhat unfinished, with some missing elements and typed captions that awkwardly signpost each scene like an episodic crime drama. Choppy editing leaves it often looking like actors weren't actually together on-set, but the musical beats bring things to life, adding energy and an undercurrent of feeling. As a mystery develops, the filmmaking plays up the slight whiff of suspense. And while many scenes feel padded out for comical effect, the plot actually has intriguingly serious edges to it.
There isn't a lot of development in these roles, but the actors go in hard on their singular characteristics. Shield camps it up appropriately as Maxine, wildly overreacting to everything while striking seductive poses in her glamorous revealing outfits. Kornisiuk is likeable as the sweetly dim Hunter, and the hot actor happily strips off for plenty of gratuitous nudity. While aside from a hilarious pastiche prolog, Stratton-Smith spends much of the running time lurking in the background. He and Kornisiuk also find some strong chemistry.
Much of the humour is so deadpan that it elicits a laugh before we know what hit us. While the love square-to-triangle premise remains gurgling in the background, the main focus is on the relentless self-involvement of these people as they spiral into a raucous cocktail of sex, murder and revenge. The film is resolutely nutty and messy, which makes it difficult to engage with. But its twists are a lot of nasty fun, even when what happens is actually rather tragic if you take the time to think about it.
-- Reviewed by Rich Kline, Shadows On The Wall/Rotten Tomatoes (http://www.rottentomatoes.com)