Dir: Emilio Estevez. USA. 1999. 113 mins.
Prod Co: District. Prods: Dick Berg, Allan Marcil. Co-prod: Lisa Niedenthal. Scr: Norman Snider, Anne Meredith, David Hollander. DoP: Paul Sarossy. Prod des: John Dondertman. Ed: Craig Bassett. Mus: Tyler Bates. Main cast: Charlie Sheen, Emilio Estevez, Tracy Hutson, Rafer Weigel, Megan Ward, Terry O'Quinn, Peter Bogdanovich.
Consisting largely of reheated leftovers from Boogie Nights and Larry Flynt, Rated X fails to provide any penetrating insights into the rise and fall of folically-challenged porn king brothers Artie and Jim Mitchell. Although seemingly born to play these roles, Charlie Sheen and Emilio Estevez are disappointingly colourless and the film itself is monotonous and uninvolving. Theatrical possibilities are flaccid.
The film circles backwards from the rainswept evening in 1991 when the long simmering love-hate relationship between the duo finally ended in murder. The film then skims the surface of their lives, filling in their childhood camaraderie, their move into porn and their jackpot breakthrough with box-office phenomenon Beyond The Green Door. Skirmishes with the law and the Mob, intensifying creative rivalry and the expected excesses of their coke and champagne lifestyle inevitably follow.
Aside from a nod to the anti-establishment sensibility of the anti-Vietnam protest era, Rated X singularly fails to place the Mitchell brothers' story in any kind of meaningful social or historical context. We have no sense, for instance, of the way changing mores and the success of films like Deep Throat and Emmanuelle moved porn into the mainstream during the 1970s.
Secondary characters are rarely more than sketchily portrayed as the focus remains resolutely on the relationship between brothers raised to believe that family is the only thing that matters. Consequently, Sheen and Estevez are given some grandstanding moments but they are played more for histrionic self-indulgence than dramatic conviction.
Aside from brief flashes of full frontal nudity, the overall tenor of the film is tepid and unadventurous leaving the viewer to assume that the Mitchell brothers' life story had to have been more interesting than the way it's depicted here.