Rated R. At the AMC Boston Common, Assembly Row and Somerville Theater.
The rich get their comeuppance once again in Brandon Cronenberg’s (arguably X-rating level) “Infinity Pool,” a film in which the “Northman” himself Alexander Skarsgard plays an author suffering from writer’s block who is drawn into a violent and surreal existence on an island resort.
James (Skarsgard) and Em Foster (Cleopatra Coleman) are a married couple (her father is a super-wealthy publisher). The couple is enjoying a retreat on the fictional island of La Tolqa, where the natives are restless. On his own, James meets Gabi (Mia Goth), a British actress who is big fan of his first and only novel. Gabi is on the island with creepy architect Alban (Jalil Lespert). They convince James and Em to accompany them on a trip outside the resort, which is illegal, to sunbathe, drink and eat sausages. James wanders off to relieve himself. Gabi follows and does something shocking. On the ride back, James hits a pedestrian, killing him. Arrested the next day, James is interrogated by the Tolqan Detective Thresh (Thomas Kretschmann) and told that he can pay to have a double of himself created to be executed in place of him. James agrees, setting into motion a bizarre and perverse turn of events.
Cronenberg, the son of “body horror” master David Cronenberg (“Crimes of the Future”), has certainly followed in his father’s bloody footsteps. The director son likes blackout shots, pounding sound effects and making the camera do somersaults. James, whose passport goes missing, is introduced by Gabi to a Tolqan aphrodisiac that one inhales. He is taken to a sex party with her and her decadent, expat friends. In scenes reminiscent of “A Clockwork Orange,” they manage to break into a Tolqan political figure’s house, harass the residents, including a naked woman, and kill someone. What next? Orgy.
Get your doubles ready to take the blame for you. Pretty soon, James is not sure if he is himself or a double on all fours, sporting a dog collar and leash, shades of “Invasion of the Body Snatchers” and “Lassie.” Gabi encourages James’ existential confusion. The graphic sex parties continue. Supposedly tribal face masks worn by waiters in opening scenes suggest an iconic episode of “The Twilight Zone.” The razor wire around the resort’s front gate suggest tooling around outside in a white Caddie convertible with red leather interior might not be such a great idea. According to Tolqan tradition, a son of the victim, a boy really, kills James’ double with a knife while James and Em watch. While I don’t want to get too Freudian on Cronenberg fil, a son may be thought of as his father’s double. You get my drift. Cronenberg’s previous effort “Possessor” (2020) also had a body-switching angle.
In a perverse twist among twists, Gabi suggests James and his double do something nasty to her. Skarsgard, who wielded axes and knives and built bloody murals out of body parts in “The Northman,” has a surprisingly girlish scream here. Goth, an erotic force to contend with, has a fabulous scene in which she and her friends chase down a shuttle James has boarded. The ghoulish masks reappear, worn by murderous, hedonistic expats (doubles?). “Infinity Pool” is a dive into gory, violent, sexually graphic weirdness to be sure. The futuristic jazz score by Tim Hecker is certainly noteworthy. But the film may be more wacko Oedipal struggle than coherent drama.
(“Infinity Pool” contains profanity, extreme violence, nudity and graphic sex)