Review: 'Infinity Pool' - Please Kill 'Me.'

Kurt Loder on

Brandon Cronenberg's new movie, "Infinity Pool," answers the question of what's for dinner by setting before you a plate of blood and guts and -- Jesus, what's that? -- a spurt of unexpected white goo, and then cheerily yelling out, "Mangia!" For those who figured this director couldn't possibly go much farther down the road of WTF than he did in the alarming "Possessor" (2020), he would now like to demonstrate how very, very wrong you were.

The story is set in a luxury vacation resort on the fictitious island of La Tolqa. It's a standard tropical paradise, although the rolls of razor wire over the front gate of the place tend to harsh the balmy vibe. James Foster (Alexander Skarsgard) and his wife Em (Cleopatra Coleman) have come to La Tolqa to spend some money in the sun. Em's money, that is, not James' -- he's a writer, and his one book, published six years ago, still has no successor to keep it company in the cutout bins. James is getting a little bored with dozy island life when he encounters another guest, the aggressively seductive Gabi (Mia Goth -- all bow down), who turns out to have read his old book and loved it -- loved it! So why no follow-up? James says he's come to La Tolqa in search of inspiration. Gabi gives him a frankly lubricious look of appraisal.

Gabi and her unsavory architect husband, Alban (Jalil Lespert), are longtime La Tolqa visitors, and they persuade James and Em to join them for a night out. Bad idea, naturally. James is at the wheel of their rental car when it hits a local civilian and kills him. Gabi and Alban are strangely unshaken by this bloody event, but James is horrified -- especially after a sinister local police officer named Thresh (Thomas Kretschmann) informs him that the penalty for what he's done (and for all other legal infractions on La Tolqa, apparently) is death. There's a loophole, though: wrongdoers with fat-enough bank accounts can pay to have a "double" of themselves made -- a replica, complete with all of their memories and feelings -- and that substitute creature can then be executed in their place (while they watch -- a non-negotiable part of the deal). Helpfully, for those interested in this arrangement, there's an ATM right in the police station.

The director deals with the moral implications of his story by bringing in several creepy friends of Gabi and Alban -- people they've befriended and who knows what else on their previous visits to La Tolqa. Donning grotesque face masks -- locally crafted and available in the lobby gift shop! -- they mount late-night sex-and-murder sorties into the surrounding area (one of them a home invasion queasily reminiscent of --- and almost as appalling as -- the one in "A Clockwork Orange"). Since the legal consequences for these hideous activities are nil -- at least as long as the perpetrators' money doesn't run out -- there's no reason for a moral slug like James not to take part. So he does, and discovers he loves it.

Cronenberg's unwavering commitment to rent flesh and oozy mayhem, and to disturbing passages of psychedelic sexual imagery, is breathtaking. (Just when you're wondering what it would be like to watch your faux self being slaughtered in front of an audience of which you're a part, you realize it might actually be the real you who's tethered to that post out on the killing floor -- in which case, who is the you who's watching?) The movie debuted with an anything-goes NC-17 rating at this week's Sundance Film Festival, where considerable excitement was stirred by a scene in which Goth performs reach-around masturbation on Skarsgard (or some other penis-having person) in a closeup shot that never looks away. For the movie's theatrical release this weekend, the picture has been lightly trimmed in order to secure an R rating, so that scene may be gone. However, it's hard to imagine such a superficial adjustment having any substantial effect on the film's blazing power. And Mia Goth, in full snarl and cackle, reigns over the rest of the picture undiminished.


In among the many awful things that happen in this movie there is one triumphantly funny scene. Gabi and her skeevy friends have taken James captive and are prodding him down a road in front of one of their cars. Gabi sits on the hood of this vehicle, waving around a gun and egging James on by reading aloud -- very aloud -- old, nasty reviews of his one and only book. Which, she crows, she actually never read! Any writer watching this scene can be forgiven for finding it to be the movie's cruelest moment.


Kurt Loder is the film critic for Reason Online. To find out more about Kurt Loder and read features by other Creators Syndicate writers and cartoonists, visit the Creators Syndicate website at www.creators.com.

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