Taurus is ultimately too informed by MGK’s real-life persona and proves aimless as an attempt to contend with the great generational tragedy of its subject matter.
While surely not recognized as such by many, Tim Sutton has quietly, diligently worked toward some sort of auteur status over the past decade, managing seven distinctive features across this span of time, beginning with 2012’s well-liked Pavilion. What’s followed since has proven more divisive, or worse still, been ignored almost entirely, yet Sutton keeps on getting the greenlight, his savvy for pairing trendy castings with superficially enticing premises enough to keep hooking producers and financiers. Indeed, each new Sutton production brings with it some sort of curiosity factor or another, though none have really managed to capitalize or build off this, generally petering out into empty shock and vague symbolic gesture.
Sutton’s latest project, Taurus, lands him back in this same unfortunate pattern, this time with Cleveland’s own Machine Gun Kelly (credited as Colson Baker) by his side. A holdover from the virtually unseen, Sam Worthington-starring revenge western The Last Son, MGK has reteamed with Sutton for something decidedly different: a sullen showbiz drama made in the image of Gus Van Sant’s “Death Trilogy.” Specifically riffing on the Kurt Cobain-inspired Last Days — one imagines that this was pitched as that film, but for sound cloud rappers —Taurus follows Cole, an ascendant pop-rap artist who spends most of his time strung out and disassociated, his rare moments of lucidity punctuated by violence and angst. The film sets a meandering pace early, drifting through a series of sketches of Cole’s miserable, decadent life and the team in charge of keeping him conscious enough to crank out hit singles. Of primary interest are a pragmatically vampiric manager (Scoot McNairy) and Ilana (Maddie Hasson), the much put-upon assistant ensnared in a pattern of abuse that distorts their professional relationship. A more conventional dramatic telling of these stories might’ve served Taurus better, but instead Sutton takes a more oblique, poetic approach ultimately undermined by the film’s obvious, maudlin observations regarding the dark side of fame and fortune.
A classical tale with a superficially contemporary bent, Taurus feels a touch opportunistic and not particularly well observed. In many ways, the film operates as an MGK acting reel first and a Hollywood addiction drama second, the pop punk-rap star — quite entertaining in Joost-Schulman joints Nerve and Project Power — gives a very loud and very annoying performance here, fairly committed but also clearly wrapped up in his real-life persona and self-promotional mythos. This proves something of an issue for the film, as MGK, while certainly an amusing pop culture figure, has never registered as much more than that, and the attempts here to assert him as a credible, meta stand-in for the likes of Lil Peep, Mac Miller, Juice WRLD, etc. is a challenging proposition for viewers to get on board with. Too close to home in the wrong ways (a scene with real-life partner Megan Fox hardly lands), Taurus doesn’t manage to be the major coming-out for “MGK the Iconoclast” it so obviously wants to be, but instead registers only as a disappointing, aimless attempt to contend with a great generational tragedy.