Review by Camden Ferrell
Mope is the feature directorial debut of Lucas Heyne. The film had its premiere at the 2019 Sundance Film Festival. This movie adapts an absurd but true story with a B-movie aesthetic that doesn’t always work, but it does boast some decent performances and shocking imagery.
In this film, we see the expansive and intimidating world of pornography through the perspective of two mopes. A mope is conveniently defined as someone who is a bottom-tier porn actor who typically has to do the dirtiest most undesirable work available. These two mopes, Steve Driver and Tom Dong, are seeking fame and glory, but they quickly realize they are in over their heads.
This film has a fascinating premise. The world of porn is seedy in multi-faceted ways, and it’s a captivating and not often seen backdrop to many movies. Since this movie is based on real life, it makes the depravity of its characters and the shock value of its imagery all more effective. Heyne’s first feature has plenty of faults, but his fearlessness in venturing into this world is highly commendable. It’s daring nature is one of the film’s most admirable attributes.
The acting in this film is fairly decent throughout. Nathan Stewart-Jarrett plays Steve, and he is definitely the film’s most prominent character. There’s a lot of pressure put on his character to carry the movie, and while Stewart-Jarrett doesn’t always hit the mark, he continuously delivers some raw and ferocious energy that elevate the film. Kelly Sry’s performance as Tom isn’t nearly as energetic, but it does have its moments. The film also features some great supporting performances from Brian Huskey and a brief but derogatory David Arquette.
The script, written by Heyne and Zack Newkirk, isn’t especially strong. It tries its best to emulate the bland and exaggerated dialogue in the porn industry, but it’s a style of writing that is still present in some of the non-pornographic scenes. A movie like Boogie Nights is able to feature purposefully bad porn dialogue with some well-written scenes, but Mope usually fails to do the same. The dialogue doesn’t do too much to develop its characters, and some situations don’t work within the context of the narrative.
It is undeniable that Heyne had a particular vision when crafting this film. It’s brave, and it’s unfiltered pornographic insanity. It’s one of the most graphic films that I have seen in many years, and there are definitely some intense scenes throughout. It’s a provocative film that will put off a large number of viewers, but for those who are willing to stick with it, there may be some joy to find in this director’s creative choices. While the film is riddled with flaws, this is still a promising debut from Heyne.
The film doesn’t always make the most effective use of its time, but it does convey a clear message. It’s a typical story about the dangers of ambition, greed, and its ensuing moral corruption. Its easy to forget that this movie is based on real events especially during its crazy final act. There are a lot of aspects that this film doesn’t execute well, but it’s still made up mostly by its themes, energy, and vision.
Mope is intense, shocking, and not for the weak of heart or stomach. It’s a movie that doesn’t let the audience rest for more than a few minutes before subjecting them to more aggressive visuals. The script may be lacking, and the execution isn’t all there, but this movie may be worth checking out for its sheer ability to take risks.
Mope is available on VOD June 16.