The tropical nation of Li Tolqa, a resort destination which hosts an international clientele during the summer with hosts of dedicated servants tending to their needs as they gaze into the sunset past the white lawn furniture and the islands which recede into the distance, while beyond the barbed wire fences is another world, a corrupt dictatorship of poverty and high crime where wealthy tourists are an easy target.
A writer struggling with his second novel, James Foster has come to Li Tolqa with his wealthy wife Em seeking inspiration, but unsure what he is doing or whether he belongs there he is instead distracted by Gabi Bauer, flirtatious and direct in deed and demand, who with her husband Alban insists the couple join them on a road trip which ends up with Alban drunk and James driving in the dark when they knock down and kills a peasant farmer, a crime for which James is arrested and sentenced to death.
The third film from writer and director Brandon Cronenberg, Infinity Pool reflects the extremes of body horror and dark science fiction associated with his family name, investigating officer Detective Thresh (The Winter Soldier‘s Thomas Kretschmann) apprising James (The Northman‘s Alexander Skarsgård) of an unusual legal clause which allows his country leeway in such instances, where for a hefty fee a clone of the accused can be created and executed in their stead, the sentence carried out by the eldest son of the victim and witnessed by the perpetrator.
An unfortunate happenstance, trust foolishly placed in a stranger, bad decisions compounded by boredom and alcohol and a sense of invulnerability granted by wealth in a place of endemic poverty leading to a downward spiral of out of control behaviour, James is in thrall to principal instigator Gabi (A Cure for Wellness‘ Mia Goth) who teases, goads, bullies and threatens in order to get her own way, demanding that the depravity of the newcomer matches that of her established coterie of damaged survivors.
The first hour of Infinity Pool paddling in the ideas, establishing the delicate balance of Li Tolqa the resort and the menace beyond the gates, of James as a frustrated man prone to follow his urges without consideration coming to the realisation that any impulse can now be indulged without repercussion, the suffering of others and even his own doppelgänger becoming a performance art in which he exhibits himself then sheds his sins as a second skin, the second does not seek to adapt or adjust so much as continuing the same laps with increasing ferocity to the point of exhaustion.
Perhaps aiming for challenging and provocative but populated with irredeemably vile characters who actively push the viewer to despise them, Infinity Pool is so intent on shocking it becomes banal in its determination to be transgressive, each additional attention-seeking orgy of drugs and violence more tedious than the last until the final tally of consequences for the actions is presented, the checkout an infuriating cop out which implies most of not all of what has happened was just the imaginings of James as he considers his new novel, any presumed depth an illusion by design.