Release Date: October 12, 2018 (Limited)
Director: Orson Oblowitz
MPAA Rating: NR
Run Time: 90 minutes
Wistfully orbiting the pulpy crime dramas it desperately wishes it was, The Queen of Hollywood Blvd — a dull imitation of an indie gangster film — that is so poorly executed it makes all the sex, drugs and violence it indulges in seem perfunctory and quaint, all things considered.
Stitched together from the leftovers of far-better explorations of Los Angeles’ criminal- and neon-soaked underbelly and performed in a dreary, over-serious monotone, this story of a makeshift matriarch defending her nightclub from a nebulous criminal organization can barely get a rise out of its audience. Trudging through a repetitive screenplay of favors and betrayals too ill defined to decipher, The Queen of Hollywood Blvd fails to even register on the scale of lurid thrills you expect from other tasteless, button-pushing crime odysseys set in The City of Broken Dreams.
The Hollywood setting is utterly superfluous to the plot and only matters when a cheap moral quip about “things not working out like the movies” or an establishing vista is needed to set an unearned mood. Queen Mary is one such victim of the dream factory who was chewed up and spit out into a life of debauchery, crime and wacky personalities thriving on the outskirts of acceptable society. Played by Rosemary Hochschild (who performs like a groggy Anjelica Huston and dresses like a Skid-Row Liberace), she is the proprietor of a dive strip club where she is treated like royalty and rules with an iron fist of tough love over her staff.
On her 60th birthday, a crime boss and old acquaintance (both facets are never made clear in the grand scheme of things) demands the club be handed over to him based on a mysterious promise made decades ago, allegedly. Though Oblowitz fails to properly establish what exactly the reason for his film’s conflict is, he throws his protagonist back into the life she left behind in a long, arduous, boring trip through the L.A. underworld to earn her bar back or die trying.
Though structured like a descent film, forcing the exhausted retiree in Mary to dip her toes back into the seedy world she revolves around to maintain her independence, Oblowitz haphazardly pastes a series of meetings with underworld connections together under the ruinous assumption that it is developing his character and story. In effect, it makes the film a random assemblage of loosely connected conversations performed with lifeless, whispered mumbling that one assumes is supposed to read as aloof coolness.
Though Mary and the club are meant to act as an anchor to maintain a semblance of cohesion to Oblowitz tour of amusing side characters, she is too thinly defined and bland to be an effective guide through a messy plot. And the club only really serves to squeeze in some leering and excessive footage of the dancers, with which the director is all too eager to pad out his film. These gazing, camera-filling shots of bodies from mostly unnamed characters would awkwardly break up the flow of any competent film, but Queen of Hollywood Blvd is a special case.
The mortal sin of the first-time director looms over this film, as Oblowitz composes scenes with little rhyme, reason or consideration of the scenes that came before or will follow. Intense close-up conversations fade into wide-open Hollywood vistas; angles go Dutch without a moment’s notice; and inexplicable slow motion is in hefty supply (mostly utilized for the aforementioned stripper scenes because…of course).
The neon and slow motion often fool critics into into a believing a film is operating on a hip, nihilistic wavelength in tune to the criminal underbelly it seeks to portray, but there is no detectable design to how Queen of Hollywood Blvd utilizes any of its stylistic self-gratifications. This is the “if it looks cool, film it” mentality of the crime drama perpetrated by the people who thought they could be the next Tarantino if given the chance and all failed spectacularly.
This is no different. A slough of a film with little redeeming qualities that manages to drag its heels over a rudimentary premise and make the one-day plot feel like weeks to get through. When it isn’t dusting off pseudo-philosophical musings about morality and Hollywood for cheap grasps at “saying something,” The Queen of Hollywood Blvd bores one to tears with its attempts at pulp fiction and making viewers uncomfortable with its superfluous amount of T&A. You’ll be hard pressed to find a film that gives off more “written by a dude” vibes than this.