Director: Sean Baker

Runtime: 2hrs 8mins

Cast: Simon Rex, Bree Elrod, Suzanna Son, Brenda Deiss

Synopsis: Mikey Saber is a washed-up porn star who returns to his small Texas hometown, not that anyone really wants him back.


This audacious new film from writer-director Sean Baker [The Florida Project (2015), Tangerine (2017)] stars Simon Rex in a magnetic, live-wire performance. Red Rocket is a darkly funny, raw and humane portrait of a uniquely American hustler and a hometown that barely tolerates him.

Mikey Saber (Simon Rex) is trouble. The bruised and bashed, washed-up porn star is a conniving, silver-tongued snake who returns from Los Angeles to his hometown of Texas City in 2016. He quickly heads to the door of his estranged wife, Lexi [Bree Elrod – Shutter Island (2010)] and her mum, Lil [the late Brenda Deiss – one of the film’s many screen first-timers]. “Why are you here?” Homeless Mikey with his fatal brand of charm, selfishness and tall tales soon has his feet under the table, assuring Lexi that: “it’ll be like we’re still married”, to which she scathingly replies: “We are still married.”

As he works his way back into the affections of his estranged wife Lexi, Mikey starts dealing drugs to workers outside the oil refinery whilst plotting his next big move. When he meets impressionable 17-year-old Strawberry [Suzanna Son – Birthday Boy (2018)], he thinks she could be his ticket back into the porn industry and Holywood success.

It’s creepy to watch Mikey inveigle in his predatory way into the affections of Raylee [Suzanna Son – Birthday Boy (2018)], a 17-year-old who works at the local Donut Hole and tells him: “Everybody calls me Strawberry.” Wasting no time, Mikey sets about grooming Raylee into becoming his adult film protege. Mikey brags: “I’ll have her shooting scenes by September.” While Lexi accuses him of being a “suitcase pimp” – the porn industry term for a man who lives off female talent.

A coruscating, vivid view of rust belt, anonymous industrial America with hopeless, poverty- stricken lives, with the oppressive, unsettling voice of Donald Trump as background on television.

Throughout, director Sean Baker and his regular co-writer present their marginalised characters non judgementally, however Mikey’s narcissistic, self-serving, despicable behaviour is initially entertaining but soon becomes toxic.

Simon Rex is an American actor, rapper, comedian, former model; known for TV – MTV VJ, What I Like About You (TV 2000-2006) and film – 3, 4 and 5 of the Scary Movie franchise, National Lampoon’s Pledge This! (2006).].  He has received critical acclaim for his magnetic career defining performance in Red Rocket as the creepy, charming, hustler.

His acting tour-de-force is backed by a strong ensemble and atmospheric cinematography from Drew Daniels, in an overall involving, if ambivalent narrative from Sean Baker.

In cinemas

Images courtesy of: A24