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Love Lies Bleeding

Content Caution

Love Lies Bleeding 2024


In Theaters


Home Release Date




Paul Asay

Movie Review

Everything was going fine. Just fine.

And honestly, Lou needed a little “fine” in her life.

She grew up in what could (only charitably) be described as a dysfunctional home, under the thumb of her gun-running, insect-loving dad, Lou Sr. But while she’s tried to put a little distance between she and her pops, it’s hard to do in this 1980s New Mexico backwater town where they both live. She pays the rent by managing a rundown gym—turning on the lights, checking cards, cleaning out the clogged toilets with her bare hands.

But then she walked in—dark, tall and built like a brick house. Jackie. From Oklahoma, making her way slowly across the West to compete in a Vegas bodybuilding competition. And, whaddya know, Jackie liked girls—just like Lou.

They hit it off right away. Before you could say biceps curl, Jackie was shacking up in Lou’s apartment, doing pull-ups and push-ups and posing in front of the mirror. Lou was able to take Jackie’s bodybuilding to the next level, too: Hard work is fine, after all, but steroids help that hard work pay off all the more.

Yep, everything was going fine. Better than fine, really. For once in her life, Lou felt just a bit of hope, like sunlight on her skin. She could imagine—perhaps even look forward to—a better future.

But then Jackie killed a guy. And that’s not fine at all.

Positive Elements

Before Jackie, Lou loved just two things: her cat and her sister, Beth. In fact, Beth is the main reason—perhaps the only reason—why Lou’s stayed in town as long as she has. Beth’s husband, JJ, regularly beats Beth. And while Beth professes her love for him and refuses to leave, Lou sticks around—doing what little she can to safeguard her sister and give her a refuge if Beth ever decides to leave him.

Spiritual Elements

Not much, unless you count some motivational posters scattered around the gym. (“The body achieves what the mind believes,” for instance.) A couple of people pray before a competition.

Sexual Content

Lou and Jackie are engaged in a same-sex relationship, and we see plenty of intimate interactions play out on screen. The breasts of both women are visible at one point or another, and their physical interactions leave little obscured. One particularly explicit sexual encounter includes talking dirty throughout as well.

While Lou seems to be solely interested in women, Jackie likes “both.” The first time that audiences see her having sex, it’s in a car with a man—JJ, Beth’s husband. It’s another very explicit scene with sexual movements and her backside visible. That said, Jackie clearly doesn’t enjoy the encounter much: For her, it’s more like a business transaction, a way to introduce herself to someone who might have a legitimate job for her. (When Lou learns about the encounter—even though it was before she met Jackie—she’s pretty furious for a couple of obvious reasons.)

Another woman—Daisy—has a massive crush on Lou. Lou doesn’t seem particularly attracted to Daisy, but they were apparently once together, and Daisy desperately (and I mean desperately) wants her back. And at one juncture, she’s semi-successful. We see the two women kiss and, at one point, Daisy parades around in the nude. (We see her from the back.)

We hear that Jackie left home because her hometown wasn’t particularly supportive of her hobby or her lifestyle. And when she makes a tearful call home—where she tells a younger sibling to “never fall in love”—the call is terminated by Jackie’s apparent mother. The mother calls Jackie a “monster” and instructs her daughter never to call home again. We can’t know for sure why her mom thinks she’s a monster—but it could have something to do with her sexual identity.

Jackie and other bodybuilders (both male and female) are shown in the skimpiest of outfits, sporting spray tans and several layers of oil. After Beth accidentally spills something on JJ’s pants and tries to wipe it off, JJ scolds her for touching his privates in public. Jackie works out in her bra.

Violent Content

[Note: Spoilers are contained in this section.]

As mentioned, Jackie kills a guy—but that prosaic description hardly does this particular murder justice. She breaks into a house, headbutts her victim and smashes the man’s head against a coffee table repeatedly. By the time the attack is done, the man is dead, and his head is a bloody mess—his jaw flopping about uselessly and teeth looking broken and askew. Later, when Lou tries to clean up the mess, she finds a tooth embedded in a picture—indicating the ferocity of the attack. (The mess is indeed significant: Blood stains the floor, the walls, even the ceiling.)

Jackie was under the influence of steroids when she made the attack. Certainly, she was no pushover before she started taking them: When a man sexually harasses her—a proposition that seems well on its way to sexual assault—she punches him in the face and pounds on his friend for good measure.

But the steroids make Jackie’s own natural aggression far, far worse. During a bodybuilding competition, she attacks a contestant she imagines is laughing at her, leaving the woman bloodied. She even lashes out at Lou as well. And when Lou locks Jackie in the apartment to prevent her from causing any more trouble, she breaks out.

But Lou’s no stranger to violence herself. When Jackie kills the guy, Lou drives the body to a large crevasse, where Lou’s father has apparently been disposing of bodies for years. She pushes the victim’s car (with the victim in it) into the opening and sets it on fire. When law enforcement officials investigate, they find the remains of several other people. We learn that Lou learned quite a bit from her father—and in dreamy flashback sequences, both are shown pointing the gun at the camera and pulling the trigger.

Perhaps appropriately, Lou Sr. owns a gun range, where JJ and, ultimately, Jackie work. We see plenty of bullets fired at targets. But Lou Sr. fires a round near Jackie’s head one afternoon—an invitation, it would seem, to take a personal shooting lesson from the man. (The “lesson” takes on a certain sensuality; when Jackie pulls the trigger and feels the gun’s power, Lou says, “A bit more powerful than a punch, eh?”)

A few other people die. Someone gets shot in the back, and the resulting body is used as a bit of a running gag. Other people are shot and wounded. One person is, perhaps, squished to death (though it happens off camera).

We never see JJ attack or abuse Beth. But we do see the aftermath—which can be horrific. JJ sends Beth to the hospital after one assault, the left side of her face so bruised and swollen that it’s almost recognizable. Even beforehand, signs of abuse are everywhere: s black eye. A split lip. Lou is convinced that if Beth doesn’t leave JJ, he’ll eventually kill her—and that seems like a tragically safe bet.

Crude or Profane Language

About 65 f-words and 15 s-words. We also hear “a–,” “b–tard,” “crap,” “d–n,” “h—” and “d-ck.” God’s and Jesus’ name are both abused three times.

Drug and Alcohol Content

When Jackie first meets Lou, she says that her body is “au naturel.” When Lou first offers a steroid injection to her, Jackie seems unsure, saying she’s never used them. But that changes quickly.

“Your body, your choice,” Lou quips. Jackie acquiesces, and soon, Lou is injecting Jackie with steroids—in the thigh, in the rear, elsewhere. Soon Jackie is injecting it herself—often between her toes, so telltale needle marks won’t show up. And the movie suggests that ultimately, she’s giving herself steroids several times a day.

The movie treats this abuse inconsistently. On one level, it’s a cautionary tale: As Jackie’s steroid use grows, her life spirals, and she makes some terrible decisions because of it. But the film also has a weird, quasi-superhero thread running through it, too: Jackie’s muscles sometimes literally grow right before the audience’s eyes, and the abuse of other characters we see becomes a pretext for moments of (what the movie would say is) righteous vengeance.

Lou is half-heartedly trying to stop smoking. She listens to self-help tapes that talk about the dangers of cigarettes even as she smokes one. After she meets Lou, she seems to stop for a bit—but Daisy gives her a cigarette anyway, “in case of emergency,” she says. Needless to say, an emergency comes.

Lou Sr. smokes cigars. Another character or two may smoke marijuana. Characters drink beer, wine and other alcoholic beverages. We hear some talk about meeting up at bars.

Other Negative Elements

The first time that audiences see Lou, she has her hand and arm in a filled-and-overflowing toilet bowl, trying to unclog it. (It works, but barely.)

Lou Sr. owns a couple of apparently legitimate businesses, but most of his money is earned covertly and illegally—largely smuggling guns into Mexico, it seems. We see plenty of different facets of that operation as the film wears on.

Oh, he also eats an insect—one of his beloved pets—in a moment of stress and rage.


After a ‘roid-raging Jackie destroys people, participates in a handful of felonies and causes significant problems for herself and her lover, she feels pretty down. Lou reassures her: “There is absolutely nothing wrong with you!”

We’ll just leave that bon motte there to sit, shall we? Let’s turn our attention away from whether there’s something wrong with Jackie to whether there’s something wrong with Love Lies Bleeding.

The answer? You bet there is.

Love Lies Bleeding is soaked in blood, baby oil and other bodily fluids. It rightfully makes abuse look horrible—but then it proceeds to abuse the audience.

Yes, the story—particularly its unhinged final chapter—is creative, and even occasionally clever. But we could say the same of many a nightmare we’ve had, right? In practically every category you can think of—its sexual content, its violence, its language, etc.—this is a nightmare of a film. And it’s one that I wish I could’ve woken up from, rather than seeing it to its lying, bleeding end.

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Paul Asay

Paul Asay has been part of the Plugged In staff since 2007, watching and reviewing roughly 15 quintillion movies and television shows. He’s written for a number of other publications, too, including Time, The Washington Post and Christianity Today. The author of several books, Paul loves to find spirituality in unexpected places, including popular entertainment, and he loves all things superhero. His vices include James Bond films, Mountain Dew and terrible B-grade movies. He’s married, has two children and a neurotic dog, runs marathons on occasion and hopes to someday own his own tuxedo. Feel free to follow him on Twitter @AsayPaul.