A review by Aaron AuBuchon
Severin Blu-Ray, 2014
If Melvin the Mop Boy from The Toxic Avenger (1984) was born of a vague Eastern European stock and was cast in a low-rent knockoff of Taxi Driver, you’d come close to being able to describe Bag Boy Lover Boy. However, it transcends that description while also failing to live up to its promise a bit, because the film also suggests something about the predatory nature of art and creativity in general, but does it in such a way that it’s hard to feel very badly for the victims, as the prey is also predator. And so it goes, all the way down.
Albert (John Wachter) works at a hot dog stand, an endeavor as utterly gross as you’d imagine it to be. He picks his nose, never closes his mouth, attempts to serve food that has fallen on the floor, and jacks off into a magazine at work. A chance meeting with fetish photographer stereotype Ivan (Theodore Bouloukos) lands him an uncomfortable modeling gig doing some sort of art/porn hybrid that apparently has afforded Ivan some limo rides, a swanky and crass studio and two simpering assistants/conspirators who help Ivan convince human beings that the exploitation they are participating in is art (it really isn’t) and that they aren’t being exploited (they really are). There is nobody in this movie to like or root for. Everyone is a sleazy bag of filth, which might be a commentary on the desire for fame and riches, or it might just be a mood piece intended to give you the willies.
Mood is actually what this film is good at. Character… not so much, but I don’t think it ever wanted to be good at character so that’s okay. I think that the film wants to get you down in the sewer and make you take a good look around, fill your nose with the scent and grind the goo into your pores. Albert, who would likely have been called a bit slow by my grade school teachers, is not a hero or even an anti-hero. He’s not a protagonist. He’s a study, a sideshow character given autonomy that is exploited by Ivan but is also being exploited by the film itself in some sort of dizzying metaexploitation. We are watching him not because we will find the experience edifying, we are mostly watching the freak show and wondering where it might take us, which is kind of masterful on the part of director and co-writer Andres Torres and his co-writer Toni Comas. This isn’t to suggest that Albert is an innocent, as we learn very quickly that he is at least as depraved as everyone else the film introduces. That the only character you are led to feel sorry for is a homeless drug-addled prostitute should give you a pretty good feel for the rest of the characters in Bag Boy Lover Boy.
The film is atmospheric, moody, and sometimes eloquent. That said, I found it mildly unsatisfying. I think that people should see it, and I also think that I’ll watch it again. But even with the cataclysmic climax of the film, even with the message of the film clearly stated in its final frames, it still felt like it could have done something more. But it’s worth the time and price of admission just for the startling realization that while you are judging these characters and their decisions and motivations, your own decisions and motivations run parallel with theirs in choosing to watch them in this film.