Harmony Korine’s Strip Club Movie Premiere Was All Ass, No Gas

Early on in Harmony Korine’s new experimental action film Aggro Dr1ft, hitman protagonist BO (Jordi Mollà) strangles a guy to death in his pool. Or maybe that happens toward the end. And, come to think of it, that might have been a hot tub. You’ll have to forgive my confusion, because the movie is defiantly nonlinear, shot entirely in the garish neons of infrared vision, and not anchored in any baseline reality: the moment he snuffs out this man, BO unleashes a gigantic Balrog-like kaiju that appears to breathe flame as it towers over him on the ocean horizon.

I should also mention that I was watching this fever dream in the champagne room of Crazy Girls, a topless bar in the lap (or groin) of Hollywood, at the tail end of a historic half-week rainstorm that flooded much of Southern California. Everyone got soaked while in line for the premiere event, and, inevitably, the venue acquired a whiff of wet dog. It seemed only appropriate to the sleaziness of screening a drugged-out movie in a strip club. Dancers shook their asses on the main stage and in pole pits strewn with cash. I pondered the journalistic ethics of expensing the tip I tossed in myself.

Everyone, I think, has that friend who drags them to the latest Korine joint, then raves nonsensically about it. I believe this because I’m that guy, and can well remember the smile plastered on my face when the pals I’d convinced to see Spring Breakers emerged from the theater complaining about what they’d just endured. No, man: It’s cosmic. It’s a vibe. You have to surrender. Couldn’t they admit that any director who gave James Franco cornrows and made him suck on a gun in a sex scene had unparalleled vision?

The scene at Crazy Girls for the ‘Aggro Dr1ft’ premiere in Los Angeles.

Oliver Capp/EDGLRD

So, in theory, Aggro Dr1ft would complete a lost-in-the-sauce Florida trilogy (The Beach Bum being the underrated middle installment) by taking us even deeper into a world of obscene luxury and unchecked madness. The first release from Korine’s new EDGLRD art collective — which straddles video games, fashion, and AI — it certainly succeeds at bulldozing the basic grammar of cinema to make way for a Miami hellscape of bestial crime lords, fiery palm trees, and bikini-clad women in cages. This is meant to be an underworld by every definition: when BO utters maxims like “I was born to kill, it is all I know,” you may as well take it as an expression of your own subliminal craving for violence.

The question for the viewer, though, is whether these 80 minutes of radioactive scenery, disconnected line readings, and AraabMuzik electronica can sweep you up in their post-narrative flow. Crazy Girls made sense as a more immersive kind of theater, the trappings of hedonism and mercenary economics wherever you looked, yet the audience (dominated by young film bros) ultimately had to stop talking, sit down, and engage with the montage as they would any conventional blockbuster. Even the dancers dropped away, and in the VIP area, only those who needed to steady themselves after another shot of tequila touched the pole.

In other words, we didn’t get the sensory overload you’d expect from this stunt, and you’d probably have to show this thing at the Sphere in Las Vegas to inspire genuine awe and terror. Here, it was like an extended cutscene from Grand Theft Auto brought to life as migraine aura, each beat triggering a weary “Ah shit, here we go again” until you glanced at your phone and saw almost no time had passed. The sheer disorientation is perhaps an achievement in itself, but my continual drifting (sorry) from the imagery didn’t help to unlock any special insight.

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Strangely, I was more absorbed by the seams between Korine’s dark psychedelia and the cultural milieu in which it was made. While individual actors are hard to keep track of due to all the masks and thermal imaging (Travis Scott is identifiable thanks to his braids), I speculated with the man next to me about whether one sequence featured a cameo from Snoop Dogg — whose profile, we agreed, is quite distinctive. Elsewhere, rifle-toting gangbangers’ body armor was etched with the active scribbles of a machine learning model, AI-generated patterns that seemed to hallucinate imaginary texture where the camera had wiped out the original. Nothing on the level of, say, an H.R. Giger design, but surely a better use case for this tech than deepfake porn of Taylor Swift

For his entire career, Korine has wanted movies to be something else — looser, wilder, more transgressive. That’s how his films have become cult artifacts, and why he’s adopted the title of “edgelord” for his latest venture. But his provocations and outsider status rely on a dialogue with the standard, classifiable films he finds tiresome. Of course Aggro Dr1ft breaks any available Hollywood mold, vehemently anti-commercial even as it lingers on objects of consumerist excess. Its mode of confrontation, however, would perfectly suit a gallery exhibit where people pass through at intervals and decide how much patience to grant the work. One almost wonders if, by resisting the banalities of his industry, Korine has evolved into a conventional studio artist. 

Once the credits rolled, Crazy Girls came back to life for an afterparty complete with DJs in EDGLRD streetwear and demon masks. The ass-shaking also resumed, as if the film had only been a forced intermission in a night of debauchery. Someone handed me a joint, and I took a couple of puffs, marveling at our freedom to smoke inside; then nobody would accept it from me, and, left without an ashtray, I awkwardly finished it myself, soon leaving the club in a fugue state, pre-hungover, trying to hold in mind any single detail of the anti-movie I was supposed to review. 


Outside, the rain had finished, the air smelled clean, and that’s when I was struck by the contradictory suggestions of the phrase “it just washed over me.” In one reading, the speaker is saying that something enveloped them completely, or saturated their consciousness. In the other, the speaker conveys the opposite — being unchanged or unaffected by an experience that you forgot while it was happening. I’ll remember Aggro Dr1ft as a statement, and the unusual circumstances in which I saw it delivered, but as for its actual content, I’m still drawing a blank.