The Four (2012)

Remind me, please, should I ever become a movie star (something I have no intention of doing, by the way), never to agree to appear in the accompanying Behind The Scenes documentary.
     Because having just invested 200 minutes in Michael Ninn’s The Four, luxuriatingly in positively the most sumptuous, scrumptious XXX movie I have ever seen, I then put on the “making of” disc, and all those warm fuzzy feelings flew straight out of the window. Especially knowing that four years of delays and disappointment having held it back from its original 2008 release date. Now that could have been a great story. Instead….
     It’s not that you hate to see an actor admit that he has not yet learned his lines, and simply grimace at the (omg, this dude is so patronizing) interviewer’s demand for an impromptu chunk of dialogue. It’s not that you squirm when one of the principle actresses admits she doesn’t yet know how to pronounce her character’s name. It’s not even that you actually feel embarrassed for the interviewer’s sad attempts to ingratiate himself with one of the other actresses, talking to her like Your Dad’s Creepy Friend asking what class is your favorite at school. It’s just that the whole thing reduces a magical movie to a series of talking heads, out of context stunts and very, very little else. In the context of a four disc box set, this is a cum stain splashed across one quarter of the packaging. Eject!
     The Four, for anyone who has missed the upfront palaver, is Ninn’s long-delayed but so-worth-the-wait imagining of a sequel to The 300, mainstream Hollywood’s 2007 reimagining of the Battle of Thermopylae, three hundred Spartans following King Leonidas in a doomed quest to destroy the invading Persian King Xerxes. All three hundred were slaughtered, but what about the wives they left behind? Four, led by Leonidas’ widow Queen Gorgo (played here by Brea Bennett), strike a deal with the Gods. Give us the strength of 300 men each. And we will finish our dead menfolk’s job.
     If you’ve seen The 300, you will recognize the same techniques here, with the framing voice over continuing on. The fight scenes are just as proficient, and the lighting and costuming might even be better – pulling off a first for an adult movie, Ninn tapped mainstream studios and staffers for talent, including the stunt teams who pull off some of the more spectacular moves. Indeed, so stunning are these sequences that the sex scenes (of which there are plenty) almost let the side down a little, as the cast… and maybe they can’t even help themselves anymore, so many adult films have they made… lapse into the same old dialogue that every movie uses, and the same old routine of positions as well.
     Which is not to say you’ll be forwarding through them. Renne Perez serves up a blowjob for the ages just past the halfway mark, while absolutely any scene featuring Xerxes High Priestess (Jennifer Dark) will reduce you to some form of jello as she curls and coils that so hot Euro accent around everything that she touches. Marco Banderas, as Xerxes, is alternately terrifying, awesome and volcano-hot, Jana Jordan, as the Oracle, pulls off a fantastic lesbian scene with Amber Rayne (plus she has a Texan accent to die for), and there’s another blazing blowjob bestowed by Salamis (Cassidey), on a night so chill you can see the steam rising.
     I dunno, though. You just wonder if a Spartan Queen and her three chosen warrior nympho might have something slightly more classical-sounding than “oh my god, yes yes yes, fuck that pussy ohhhhhh.” Especially when the rest of the dialogue is so beautifully poised around the action, scenery and scheming, and even the computer animation (which aroused so much hostility when the first trailers appeared four years ago), looks good enough to eat.
     But that’s a grumble for another day, and perhaps a different context. The Four, at long last, is here, and it looks as good as it should. Just don’t ask yourself what went on behind the scenes. It really doesn’t matter.
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