Naked Ambition: An R Rated Look at an X Rated Industry -- Film Review

Benjamin Walker
Jason Kempin/Getty Images

NEW YORK - OCTOBER 13:  Actor Benjamin Walker attends the "Bloody Bloody Jackson" opening night after party at Brasserie 8 1/2 on October 13, 2010 in New York City.

The subject matter is undeniably titillating: Shot over four days at the 2007 Adult Video News Awards in Las Vegas, considered the Oscars of Porn, filmmaker Michael Grecco gets an up close and personal look at the lives of porn stars, their fans and opponents. And yet, despite all the skin and suggestion, "Naked Ambition: An R Rated Look at an X Rated Industry" feels surprisingly tame, coming off more like an extended advertisement for Grecco's coffee table book of the same name.

A photojournalist known for his celebrity portraits, Grecco figures as a character in his own film, at first coming off as engaging and somewhat naive. One driving goal is to land time with porn queen Jenna Jameson and Hustler publisher Larry Flynt, and the film dedicates a good part of its 81-minute running time to this obsession.

When not pursuing this holy grail, Grecco spends time on such subjects as adult film star Sunny Lane, a skater who once competed for the Olympics; JoAnna Angel, dubbed "the Sarah Silverman of the alt-porn industry"; and JC's Girls, a trio of Christian activists who are on a mission to save souls. All this likely sounds more interesting than it plays out, as not much is revealed through Grecco's lightweight interviews.

Although he manages to make one subject cry on camera -- a move that feels manipulative for a movie with no real viewpoint -- his skills seem more suited behind the lens.

In fact, Grecco's book is filled with stunning portraits and nicely captures his subjects' personalities, which only makes the film feel even more like a bonus promotional tool. Some pictures aren't worth a thousand words -- or in this case, 81 minutes of film.

Opened: Friday, May 1 (Lantern Lane Entertainment)
Production: Lantern Lane Entertainment in association with KHG Documentary Pictures
Director/executive producer: Michael Grecco
Writer-producer: Charles Holland
Directors of photography: Peter Blaha, Kevin Gonzales, Ken Kobre
Music: Josef Peters, Jens Funke, Nic Harcourt
Editor: Jeremy Troy
Rated R, 81 minutes