Hurricane Bianca 2: From Russia With Hate **
Starring: Roy Haylock, Rachel Dratch, Katya Zomolodchikova, DJ Shangela Pierce, Doug Plaut, Molly Ryman Director: Matt Kugelman Country: USA Bianca Del Rio is back! The most popular and beloved alum of RuPaul’s Drag Race has returned in her second film, this time seeing the acerbic comedy queen travelling to Russia for witty capers and camp giggles. It’s an improvement on the first film, certainly, but that’s not saying very much. After being imprisoned for having sex with one of her students, ex-high school principal Debbie (Dratch) vows to get revenge on the teacher who sent her to prison, Bianca Del Rio (Haylock). Having seen a video that suggests gay people can be sent to prison in Russia, she fakes a teaching award that Del Rio must collect in person in Moscow and follows with her daughter (Ryman) as the unfrocked drag queen (she is barely in drag throughout the movie) heads into her trap. There, Del Rio meets local drag landlady Katya (herself) in an underground gay bar and together they stand up to the homophobic Russian police and, eventually, Debbie herself. This film is unrecognisable from the first. The first Hurricane Bianca was a Tootsie-esque mistaken identity comedy, whereas this is a double-cross farce with a lot more to its script, cast and, clearly, budget. It certainly benefits from includijg a whole host of Drag Race stars (Alaska, Darienne Lake, Mrs Kasha Davies, Katya, Shangela) but somehow, these names overshadow Del Rio herself. Katya lights up the screen both as a boy and a girl, while Shangela gets the best lines of the film. Just like its first outing, the real problem here lies with the fact that for a queen who is known for her sharp wit, the script is remarkably unfunny. The situations themselves are ridiculous enough to lend themselves to comedy galore, but somehow Bianca remains completely bland and running at about 10%. Shangela and Katya could easily have carried this movie by themselves, which is actually something I’d like to see having now sat through two of these laboured movies. Bianca is a stand-up comic; maybe she’s just not as capable when it’s scripted? Rachel Dratch gets a lot more screen-time, whose comedy talent is a welcome break from Bianca’s misfires, but her character is positioned as a Trump-supporting bigot. It works for the character, but in making her a prejudiced character the film falls flat by being just as prejudiced by itself. Russia is portrayed as a backward wasteland, without money or electricity, where the internet doesn’t exist and people will do anything for a potato. Yes it’s a camp and exaggerated version of Russia, but this stereotype is just as dangerous as the stereotype propagated about gays by Debbie. In snippets from Russian TV, we see cameos from Cheyenne Jackson and Kristen Johnston about choosing a dream home, which obviously has broken windows, no roof and is barely even standing. For a film that claims to be about overcoming prejudice - even through comedy - these wild Russian stereotypes stink of American self-aggrandisement when really, in 2018, if there’s anything to ridicule at the moment, it’s the state of US politics. It’s an improvement on the first film solely because this is, at least, not boring. The new characters, including Doug Plaut’s biazarre sidekick Rex, make the film feel much more rounded, but is this just trying to cushion us and distract from just how unfunny Bianca has become? The first film was like watching paint drying in solitary confinement, whereas at least the action here gives us something pretty to look at. The increased budget has allowed for explosions and green-screen galore, but for all its bells and whistles, you can’t get away from the fact that Bianca Del Rio has become the turd that refuses to be polished. What has happened to the Del Rio we all fell in love with on Drag Race for being so razor-tongued and downright hilarious? If anybody knows, please tweet her and let her know, because we need her back! Or, at least, give Shangela or Katya their own spin-offs. Oh and bring Alyssa Edwards and Willam back too, because they were the only good things about the first film.
OUT NOW ON NETFLIX.