Lurid ‘Love Lies Bleeding’ Delivers the Grindhouse Goods

Kristen Stewart, Katy O'Brian give '80s thriller a She-Hulk-sized twist

Love often blooms between damaged souls, but in “Love Lies Bleeding” there’s another element in play.


The story of a female bodybuilder falling for the daughter of a small-town thug feels fresh on the surface. It’s still a grindhouse thriller with more than a few wrinkles to spike the formula.

Just don’t forget to thank committed turns by Kristen Stewart and old pro Ed Harris, the latter having a calculated blast as the baddie.

Love Lies Bleeding | Official Trailer 2 HD | A24

Kristen Stewart stars as Lou, owner of a blue-collar gym where a new client makes a splash. That’s Jackie (Katy O’Brian), whose formidable physique catches Lou’s attention.

And then some.

Jackie needs a place to tune up for a bodybuilding championship, and Lou is only too eager to help. The pair have physical chemistry to burn, and the camera lets you know it. Those scenes offer more than the recent “Drive-Away Dolls,” another lesbian romance with much less storytelling snap.

Their romance gets side-tracked by Lou’s family ties. Her estranged father (Ed Harris, with crazy long hair) runs a shady shooting range, and just guess who gets a gig at his company. That’s far from the only complication in the lovers’ lives, but it packs the most danger.

Plus, Lou isn’t sure she should trust Jackie, who arrived with nothing but a gym bag filled with emotional baggage.


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“Love Lies Bleeding” is set in the 1980s but doesn’t bludgeon us with needle drops or forced nostalgia. Bodybuilders routinely turned to steroids to goose their physiques back then, and fit women weren’t as commonplace as today.

“Bleeding” plays out conventionally until the pot begins to boil over in the third act. Director Rose Glass (“St. Maud”) takes some creative liberties that don’t help her cause, but by then we’re too invested in the tortured couple to care.

Glass fixates on O’Brian’s physique, a symbol of female power and armor against the outside world. The actress handles the combination without breaking a sweat.

Stewart pushes all vanity aside to show how vulnerable Lou remains outside the gym. Even when she’s unclogging a toilet she seems capable, even comfortable in the setting.

We’d like to see more of her and Harris’ patriarch, especially in the early going. A lesser star would have turned Lou’s pappy into a spittle-flecked monster. The movie veteran dials down the menace, making his actions almost sane in a devious way.

“Bleeding” loves to shock the audience, from pools of vomit to muscle flexes that pop like a “Popeye” cartoon. Glass loses control of the tone a time or two, but her cast remains on message.

That’s what matters.

Other promising notes include a cast-against-type Dave Franco and Jena Malone as Lou’s vulnerable sister. The heroes and villains aren’t always easy to spot, which makes the story throb with uncertainty.

Yes, “Love Lies Bleeding” devolves into gunplay, and the sight of a crooked cop is too on the nose for even a genre romp. Still, “Bleeding” never stalls, nor does it make us question the bond between its flawed leads.

There’s enough gore to scare the average movie goers away. For everyone else, “Love Lies Bleeding” offers what pulp movies always provide – an R-rated escape.

HiT or Miss: “Love Lies Bleeding” is for grindhouse fans who crave characters beyond two dimensions.


  1. I believe Christian’s aim is to assess the value of a movie from the standpoint of entertainment value, with additional consideration as to whatever social or cultural meanings they might convey. Sometimes a movie contains homosexuality but this doesn’t necessarily speak to the focus the story might be concentrating on. Should we hate “Silence of the Lambs” because it includes a serial killer (and in fact, glorifies him to some extent)? You can if you want, and you’re not wrong if you do.

    Not everyone has the same religious filter in place as some of you (and that’s not a criticism of those who do). For my part, I like his reviews and appreciate his angle of approach.

    Have a great weekend everybody!

  2. I found this website through friendly exposure at Hot Air, but sadly this is my last time here. I’m tired of seeing review after review pushing alphabet movies. Bye

    1. How on Earth is Christian “pushing” “Drive Away Dollas” when he sums it up like this?

      HiT or Miss: “Drive-Away Dolls” is a career low for Ethan Coen and a disaster for anyone expecting the breezy romp the subject matters implies.

      It’s ironic you found this site thanks to Hot Air, because that’s all you’re blowing here.

      1. “HiT or Miss: “Love Lies Bleeding” is for grindhouse fans who crave characters beyond two dimensions”

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