LUCKY BASTARD (2014)
Starring Don McManus, Jay Paulson, Betsy Rue, Chris Wylde, Catherine Annette, Lee Kholafai, Lanny Joon, Clint Brink, Deborah Zoe and Angela Shin.
Screenplay by Robert Nathan and Lukas Kendall.
Directed by Robert Nathan.
Distributed by CAVU Pictures. 94 minutes. Rated NC-17.
It’s hard to believe that it’s about 15 years since The Blair Witch Project jumpstarted the mini-craze for “found footage” moviemaking.
You know how it is – the movie is supposed to be a homemade video found of normal folks who are taping themselves when they suddenly find themselves thrust into an extraordinary, often life-threatening situations. The films never have opening credits and usually have completely unknown casts, often acting in their own real names, to keep the illusion of reality alive.
While the style has never exactly taken off, it has been used steadily ever since in low-budget films, mostly of the horror variety. It has employed witches (The Blair Witch Project), demons (the Paranormal Activity movies), monsters (Cloverfield), aliens (Dark Skies) and even teen delinquents (Judy and Jimmy).
The style seems to be running out of subjects to be hooks to hang the gimmick on, and to give it credit, Lucky Bastard has come up with an intriguing new way to use the style. Lucky Bastard takes on those cheesy porn websites in which guys with handheld cameras appear to bribe or bully random women into having sex with them on shaky handheld camera. (Though this film intimates, as you may have already guessed, that those women are actually paid porn actresses.) The sites shown in Lucky Bastard seem to be particularly down and dirty, trading on kinks like rape.
The only way you really know this isn’t found footage is that star Don McManus, while no household name, has been working steadily enough over the last couple of decades that you are likely to recognize him from something or other he has done.
The titular site, Lucky Bastard, specializes on bringing in the site’s own subscribers to have sex with one of their stars. The site is owned by a jaded producer (McManus), who likes mocking the “lucky” winners on cam for being losers as their “dreams come true.”
His biggest star (Betsy Rue) refuses to be a part of the stunt, saying she will not work with amateurs. But finally, the guy talks her into giving it a try. They choose a nerdy former soldier (Jay Paulson) who sends in a video application. He is not vetted at all, and quickly after they pick him up at a local rail station, they realize the guy is a bit off center. When he calls the porn actress by her real name, she again has serious second thoughts, but is talked into it again by the producer.
When the filming finally starts and the ex-soldier has a bit of performance anxiety, he totally loses it and goes on a violent rampage on the cast and crew.
Found footage movies are difficult to critique on traditional film terms, because normal considerations – acting, dialogue, camera work, etc. – are rendered moot just due to the situation. The actors are acting as someone who is quite conscious of being on camera, so cast are going to try not to look natural on purpose.
Even subtle questions come up. I believe that the camerawork has a cheesy, sleazy porn sheen as a tribute to the style and an attempt for realism, not just because it is a poorly filmed low-budget movie. But maybe I’m just giving them too much credit. I like to believe not.
Lucky Bastard has some really good parts. McManus is terrific as a man who is so cynically selfish that he is entertaining in his complete prickishness. Rue also brings some surprising depth to her porn star heroine.
Honestly, the violence is the least intriguing part of Lucky Bastard. It is just fine, but it seems rather predictable in a film that if nothing else was very different than anything you have seen.
Lucky Bastard works best in shining a light on a shadowy backwater of the entertainment world. It’s far from perfect, but it’s pretty interesting.
Jay S. Jacobs
Copyright ©2014 PopEntertainment.com. All rights reserved. Posted: February 24, 2014.