"Red Rocket" in a magnetic, live-wire performance. It's a darkly funny, raw, and humane portrait of Mikey Saber (Simon Rex), an uniquely 'American' hustler, and a hometown that barely tolerates him.
Mikey Saber is illuminating the hustler’s code, or something akin to it. Maybe it’s an overall philosophy of life. Maybe it’s just a way of explaining his character. Whatever it's, there’s a truth to it. Some people, if there’s a bottle thrown into a crowd, they’re going to get hit in the head with it every time. Other people step in shit and come out smelling like roses and nothing ever happens to them. Mikey’s just one of those guys. He doesn’t think about the future. He doesn’t care about ramifications. Flat broke and scheming, Mikey is back home in his tiny town of Texas City, T after a Los Angeles flame-out, hoping to move back in with his estranged wife Lexi (Bree Elrod) and mother-in-law Lil (Brenda Davis). They shouldn’t let him in, but they do. Mikey’s a man-child, constantly sugarcoating things for his own mental state. He’s feeding his head with positivity because he can’t really face the negative place he's in. It’s literally the only way he can cope. Everything is always somebody else’s fault. You see a lot of 'America' in that. That’s definitely an 'American' characteristic, somebody who's striving for success and it doesn’t matter who’s left trampled on the sidelines. You see it in "There Will Be Blood" and "The Wolf Of Wall Street" too, these ruthless guys who exploit to get to the top. The film uses comedy to a degree to soften Mikey, to show how one could be attracted to him. The central character is a distinctively American figure; a confidence man, an irrepressible optimist and a total grifter. Like snake-oil salesmen and Ponzi schemers, Mikey earns his living as a specific kind of freeloader, feeding off other people’s false hopes and real work; a suitcase pimp. It's a total revelation for the character.
Since leaving the adult movie industry herself, Lexi has retreated to their hometown and slipped into drugs, but Mikey’s return sparks in her a mass of conflicting feelings, not all of them negative. She can see through the bullshit and can identify it immediately. But she's also a woman who's very lost and feeling trapped and addicted. Sometimes when you love someone, it can cloud your judgment and you can fall back into bad habits easily. Lexi’s character is crucial to the design of the film. She’s a keyhole into Mikey’s past and also, potentially, an opportunity for his redemption. Forgiveness may be off the table, but there’s a thaw. Still, Texas City doesn’t really know what to do with Mikey, this oddball former resident and washed up pseudo-celebrity riding around town on a borrowed bicycle. He’s un-hirable, unmanageable and largely irredeemable, especially to Lexi’s no-nonsense mother Lil, Significantly, "Red Rocket" is about Mikey’s eventual comeuppance at the hands of a community of women who grow tired of the hustles he believes he’s pulling off at their expense. Leading that charge, and quick to see through him, is Leondria (Judy Hill), a pot-supply kingpin.
A dark comedy with a keen attention to the dynamics of sex and power, "Red Rocket" works on it's own terms as a high-wire balancing act and mesmerizing character-driven drama. Intriguingly, though, we sometimes hear snippets of a very different off-screen drama; a careful listener will realize that the film, about a malignant narcissist on the outs, is set during the fateful summer of 2016. "Red Rocket" is a product of bold thinking and even bolder resourcefulness. An exhilarating realm of dark comedy, stylistic ambition, and pure off-the-grid adventurousness. It's a film that turns on a pin from live-wire comedy to quiet poignancy and back again, a movie as big and complex as the character at it's center. Rarely explored on film, much less on TV or in literature, the suitcase pimp is a male hanger-on, often a loosely employed boyfriend or husband, who manages a more popular female porn star, grooming and using her. Their lives are all about exploitation and using the women they’re with. The women make thousands while the men are making hundreds at best. So they've to live off the women, financially. There’s a self-denial, a holier-than-thou attitude, an obliviousness, an ignorance that these guys have. Because that’s how we think the magic happens in life, when you don’t have any expectations and you just go. And that’s what happened with this movie. It’s the full spectrum of our obscene, over-the-top culture, a culture of excess.