Rated X Review

Alexander Larman has reviewed the Region 2 release of Rated X. He rather wishes he hadn’t, as this is an abysmal film on a poor disc.

The Film

Bad films are almost ridiculously common, whether they be $100 million blockbusters or no-budget amateur exercises in sex or violence. The saving grace of the really awful film is that frequently its pomposity and stupidity will render it highly enjoyable if taken ironically, and will make it a good night out. However, these films are comparatively rare, with even the legendary Battlefield Earth being regarded as boringly bad rather than hilariously bad. It will therefore come as little surprise that Rated X is merely tiresomely awful, rather than risibly so.

The basic ‘plot’ concerns Artie and Jim Mitchell (Sheen and Estevez), allegedly real-life characters, although you’d never have guessed it so slavish is their adherence to film cliches, who decide, for reasons best known to themselves, to move into porn film directing. It’s never explained why they decide to do this; one minute they’re making abysmal student films to be criticised by a bored Peter Bogdanovich (oh, how the mighty have fallen), the next they’re choreographing the usual boring orgies.

Surprisingly, there’s remarkably little sex here, and what little there is is about as erotic as doing the washing up. Part of this is the inevitably desexualised context of porn in a non-porn film, but a lot can also be blamed on Estevez’s inability to direct a motion picture, choosing either to rely on ‘flashy’ stylistic devices that would be seen as hackneyed in an episode of Eastenders, or alternatively to try and give Kevin Smith a run for his money in terms of seeing what the dullest and most prosaic way of staging a scene realistically is.

As you’d expect, the performances are poor. It’s a toss up whether Sheen or Estevez is worse, given that both are struggling under the single worst wigs ever seen in a 70s film (for some strange reason, both seem to go bald in their 20s), but the greater disappointment has to be Sheen’s career. It’s a horrible feeling to remember how good he was in Platoon and Wall Street, and then to watch him wearing a top hat and leering at cheerleaders in a useless film like this. Theoretically, there should be a provocative edge to a character’s life so closely reflecting his own, given his widely publicised penchant for drugs, hookers and porn stars, but the utter flatness of the material removes any spark at all.

Good things? There are two moments that raised a smile from me; the first was when Sheen talked cheerfully about a Roman porn film called Bend Hur, and the second was when he attempted to make a film based on Sodom and Gomorrah ‘but with real sodomy’! However, the odd moment of wordplay does not a decent script make, especially one that took three writers to construct, presumably in some sort of competition with themselves to see how many cliches they could shovel into one script. Entire scenes are ripped off from Boogie Nights, People vs Larry Flynt, Goodfellas and virtually every other 70s film you can imagine. However, the lack of skill with which it is done means that the results are of virtually unwatchable tedium. Avoid at all costs.

The Picture

This is a slightly difficult one. As an anamorphic transfer, it’s tolerable; there’s some grain, a dark quality to the pictures and an occasional absence of detail, but it’s more or less what you’d expect for a low budget film. However, given the film’s origins as a TV movie (and it shows), it was originally filmed in 4:3, with this being something of an artificial enhancement. That said, I can’t imagine anyone in their right mind actually buying this rubbish, so minor transfer questions don’t really come into it.

The Sound

Allegedly a 5.1 mix is present, but the nature of the film means that it is limited, to say the least. Dialogue is frequently inaudible, the music sounds tinny and it’s more like listening to a badly remixed mono track. The surround mix provided is little better. Once again, I can’t see that this really matters….

The Extras

A trailer, which tries very hard to make the film look like steamy top-shelf material with pretensions, and fails even at that rather basic task. Note to anyone renting (or even, horror or horrors, buying) this film: watch the trailer, and ask for your money back after you’ve done so. This obviously doesn’t apply if you’ve stolen this film, which is an equally stupid option; it seems incredible to imagine anyone being willing to go to prison for the sake of being able to watch a film like this.


Metrodome may well have done their best with this package, but this is a rare example of where an absence of extras is something of a blessing, as it lessened the amount of time I had to spend watching this abysmal waste of film. Not the worst film I’ve ever seen, but certainly on the shortlist, this is only recommended if you have a strange urge to punish yourself. Avoid it.

Alexander Larman

Updated: Jul 13, 2001

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