×
You will be redirected back to your article in seconds

Film Review: ‘Lucky Bastard’

This creaky found-footage thriller offers a preachy look at the world of pornography.

With:

Betsy Rue, Don McManus, Jay Paulson, Christ Wylde, Catherine Annette, Lee Kholafai.

A new low for found-footage films, “Lucky Bastard” uses a porno shoot as the stage for a thriller with little mystery and lots of pointless moralizing. Adequately re-creating the look and feel of many amateur sex videos, director/co-writer Robert Nathan follows a porn star (Betsy Rue) and her producer (Don McManus) as they begin shooting an adult movie co-starring an obviously disturbed fan (John Paulson), leading the pic down a tedious, ill-constructed path toward its preachy conclusion. It’s hard to imagine anyone beyond those curious about the premise to seek out “Bastard,” given its NC-17 rating.

Whether viewers believe that pornography is a terrible business or not, “Lucky Bastard” will do little to convince them to change their minds, much less believe the film is justified in “punishing” those who work in the profession (“If you play with fire … you eventually get burned,” reads one of the opening title cards). Nathan’s approach to the subject is hardly enlightening, opting for banal and obvious truths even as it operates in something close to snuff-film territory.

Eliminating any suspense over how the possible shoot might go down, the pic opens with police footage of a house with four bloody, beaten bodies inside. It then flashes back to a week earlier, introducing us to star Ashley Saint (Rue), who is shown being tricked and then raped during a video shoot that turns out to be “just a performance.”

Despite her ambivalence, she’s pushed into doing a “Lucky Bastard” video by her sleazy producer, Mike (McManus), which will involve her having sex with one of her fans. When they choose the seemingly innocent-looking Dave G (Paulson), his awkward demeanor and too-personal knowledge put Ashley on red alert, while Mike pushes them to continue. After an arduous buildup, during which the shoot goes wrong due to “technical issues,” Dave is sent away, only to return on a murderous rampage.

The house the crew shoots in (an actual porn set) justifies the presence of continually running cameras, and the combination of a legitimate found-footage concept and the porn industry could have led to any number of interesting thematic concerns related to the blurry line between reality and performance, exploitation and control. Any ideas, however, are shortchanged here, brought up casually in banal dialogue and then shunted aside so Nathan can focus on the thriller’s violent aspects.

None of the murders is particularly well staged (the sound effects feel distinctly off), yielding little in the way of suspense. While the characters try to draw sympathy by stating that they’re just doing a job or saving up money for their kids, it’s clear that they’re really there to be punished for their wrongdoing, leaving the viewer with little to do but enjoy the spectacle of their downfall.

Technical aspects are perhaps the film’s strongest aspect.

Popular on Variety

Film Review: 'Lucky Bastard'

Reviewed online, New York, Feb. 5, 2014. Running time: 94 MIN.

Production:

A Vineyard Haven production. Produced by Jim Wynorski. Executive producers, Luckas Kendall, Robert Nathan, Ashley Saint.

Crew:

Directed by Robert Nathan. Screenplay, Luckas Kendall, Robert Nathan; Camera (HD, Color, Widescreen), Clay Westervelt; editor, Tony Randel; production designer, Eugene Bowen; sound editor, Michael. J. McDonald; visual effects supervisor, Emery Carrol; assistant director, Ricardo Smith.

With:

Betsy Rue, Don McManus, Jay Paulson, Christ Wylde, Catherine Annette, Lee Kholafai.

More Film

  • German Cinema Is Diverse, But Is

    German Cinema Is Varied, But Is It Too Risk Averse?

    One of the strengths of German cinema is its diversity, says Simone Baumann, managing director of the national film promotion agency German Films. As well as the three films at Toronto directed by female German helmers, there was also German filmmaker Thomas Heise’s documentary film essay “Heimat Is a Space in Time.” Then there were [...]

  • Female Filmmakers in Germany Make Progress

    Female Filmmakers Surge Forward in Germany, But Still Face Obstacles

    Four feature films by German filmmakers screened at the Toronto Film Festival, and three of them were directed by women – Angela Schanelec’s “I Was at Home, But…,” winner of the Berlinale’s best director prize, Ina Weisse’s “The Audition,” and Katrin Gebbe’s “Pelican Blood,” the latter two both starring Nina Hoss. Germany’s Oscar entry this [...]

  • Bull

    Annie Silverstein's 'Bull' Takes Top Awards, Robert Pattinson Starrer 'The Lighthouse' Wins Jury Prize at Deauville

    Annie Silverstein’s feature debut “Bull” swept three awards at the 45th Deauville American Film Festival, including the Grand Prize, the Revelation Prize for best first film and the Critics’ Prize. “Bull,” a portrait of a rebellious teenage girl from South Texas, world premiered at Cannes’s Un Certain Regard and marks Silverstein’s follow up to her [...]

  • Constance Wu and Jennifer Lopez star

    Jennifer Lopez's 'Criminal' Striptease: How 'Hustlers' Landed the Fiona Apple Hit

    Contrary to what you might be expecting, the number of songs by Jennifer Lopez, Lizzo and Cardi B in “Hustlers,” their newly released acting vehicle, adds up to … zero. Meanwhile, the standout music sync in a movie that’s full of them belongs to no less likely a choice than Fiona Apple. The scene in [...]

  • Game of Thrones Season 8

    'Game of Thrones,' 'Avengers' Win Big at 45th Annual Saturn Awards

    As Jamie Lee Curtis picked up her first trophy ever at the 45th Annual Saturn Awards Friday night, she had a good luck charm on her arm: former manager Chuck Binder, whom she said was the reason she became an actor. “I was in college and had no thought of being an actor,” Curtis told [...]

  • Jennifer Lopez and Constance Wu star

    Box Office: 'Hustlers' Dances Toward $32 Million Opening Weekend

    “Hustlers” is eyeing the biggest opening weekend ever for STXFilms, following a Friday domestic ticket haul of $13.1 million from 3,250 theaters. If estimates hold, the stripper saga could take home around $32 million come Sunday, marking the best live-action opening of Jennifer Lopez’s career. “Hustlers” follows a group of former strip club dancers, led [...]

  • Hustlers intimacy coordinator

    Meet the Stripper Consultant Who Gave 'Hustlers' Authenticity, Dignity and Sexual Freedom

    At last week’s Toronto Film Festival premiere of “Hustlers,” an audience of Hollywood heavyweights and Canadian locals applauded as a statuesque woman strutted on stage, rocking six-inch platform heels and a pastel tie-dye bodysuit. This adoration was not for stars Jennifer Lopez, Constance Wu or Keke Palmer, nor was it for the film’s acclaimed writer-director [...]

More From Our Brands

Access exclusive content