Pirates II:
Stagnetti's Revenge

Dir: Joone
Star: Evan Stone, Belladonna, Jesse Jane, Katsuni

The original had a certain charm, in part being the first of its kind: a XXX-rated feature, edited down to an R, and a relatively soft one at that, that skated by on a mix of novelty, self-aware goofiness and a surprisingly decent performance by Stone, as largely-useless pirate hunter Captain Edward Reynolds. The sequel, while still taking more or less the same approach - the XXX version runs about 45 minutes longer - is... Well, especially in the particularly-chatty first half, it's all mouth and no trousers, frankly; one imagines the excised segments reverse that ratio entirely. As is, however, it's pretty talky for a pirate flick, and a more appropriate subtitle early on would be "The Pirates Who Don't Do Anything." Although as I recall, the Veggie Tales movie already used that; the confusion which would result is probably the last thing the makers of either film want. The story sees Reynolds dispatched on a mission to recover a mystical pearl, in order to get a pardon for one of his crew. Said pearl in now in the control of the malevolent sorceress XiFeng (Katsuni). You can probably work out the rest of the plot for yourself.

One has to admire the scope and ambition here: I mean, what's the point of making an adult film that runs 146 minutes? Isn't that 136 longer than necessary? [Well, if it's any good, anyway] And then removing all the sex shows remarkable faith in your performers, script and production values. Unfortunately, this is not entirely justified, save for poor Stone, who is absolutely nowhere to be seen on the cover, despite having by far the most screen time. Such is the life of a male porn star. He tries immensely hard, yet even he can do very little with material that only occasionally made me laugh as intended. His retelling of the events in the previous film is fabulous - let's just say, I don't recall the giant porcupine with tarantulas for hands he describes... The rest of the cast are mostly flat [in every sense but the physical], the storyline takes far too long to get going, and the CGI is unimpressive. The ship is unconvincing, not so much gliding through the water as on top of it, though the tentacled scorpion XiFeng uses for interrogation purposes isn't badly rendered.

Things finally pick up around the hour mark, and are a good deal better for it. Reynolds has to fight a giant slug, and even if the CGI here is pretty ropey too, it's a relief to see some action. From there on, the film finally delivers the rollicking tale we wanted to see from the get-go. There's a ship of skeletal warriors, and a nice swordfight between Belladonna and Katsuni, with the latter particularly holding her own - in the right hands, she could become another kind of 'action star'. Of course, Jack Stagnetti rises from Davy Jones' locker to face Captain Reynolds once more, though in terms of actual revenge, must say, we're hardly talking Kill Bill or Wrath of Khan. The final result is pretty uneven; while the concept is fine, the makers need to work on the pacing: the film idles in neutral too long, before suddenly screaming into overdrive, and viewers will likely get bored and drift off.

[The film was released in the US on February 24th, with special features including a cast commentary, making-of featurette, bloopers, the premiere party for Pirates and deleted scenes. No, not those deleted scenes... For more information, visit MTI's website.]

March 2009

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