You can’t leave your morality in the parking lot when you visit the megaplex. It’s a crucial part of who and what we are, of course, and surely a determining factor in how we react to amoral or immoral characters on the screen.

Obviously some bad guys can be charming or at least fascinating. I could post a long list of bad-guy protagonists who qualify — Kirk Douglas‘s Midge Kelly (Champion), Douglas’s Jonathan Shields (The Bad and the Beautiful), Anthony Quinn‘s Zampano (La Strada), Marlon Brando‘s Sir William Walker (Burn!), Rip Torn‘s Maury Dann (Payday), James Gandolfini‘s Tony Soprano, etc.

But every now and then you run into a scuzzy lead protagonist who crosses the moral-ethical line, leaving you no choice but to say “oh, give me a break!” or “all right, that’s it…I need a shower!” Such a character is Simon Rex‘s aging porn star (“Mikey Saber”) in Sean Baker‘s Red Rocket.

Roughly six weeks ago I wrote that Red Rocket teeters on the line between mostly legitimate film festival-smarthouse cinema and relentlessly depraved and disgusting sociopath-porn.

“It’s ‘good’ in the sense that Baker isn’t afraid to show his lead character diving into gross and reprehensible behavior; ditto most of the supporting players. We’re talking bottom-of-the-barrel Texas trash here.

Nor does Baker feel obliged to deliver some form of moral redemption for Mikey, which I respect.

Yes, Baker occasionally delivers slick chops and whatnot, and yes, Mikey has a sizable horse schlong (even when flaccid), but the scuzz factor in this film is REALLY rank. Yes, I realize that Baker isn’t out to soothe or feel-good me. I respect his integrity but the way Red Rocket makes you feel is not good in any way, shape or form.

The crowd I saw it with in Telluride left the theatre without comment. In short, they seriously hated it. Any human being who’s seen Red Rocket would understand that reaction and tread very lightly in recommending Baker’s film, if at all.

Unless you’re elite hipster critic Bob Strauss, that is, in which case you go “wheeee…one of the year’s best! Unless, of course, you can’t tolerate the lead character but if you’re really hip like me, you’ll get past that!”

HE to Strauss: Is this your new Get Out, Bob? Seriously, do you honestly think that people tell their friends and coworkers to see films about characters they may not be able to morally tolerate? You wrote “if you can tolerate the awful person he plays”….WHAT? Rex’s character is raw sewage. What kind of reprehensible scumbag would be cool with the company of this animal?

The “naked Mikey wearing a huge red donut” poster is much more audience-friendly than any stand-out aspect of the film, although I should offer side props to Susanna Son, who makes an impression as “Strawberry,” Mikey’s gullible, up-for-anything girlfriend.