Full disclosure: I tend to enjoy found-footage-films – so let me state categorically that if you’re really no fan of them then quite a bit of LUCKY BASTARD is going to mean absolutely nothing to you. Yes – if you’re curious – this is an NC-17 rated flick. Yes – if you’re still curious – it’s set to a story within the porn industry. And yes – assuming that you’re still here – I suspect all of the good, bad, and ugly that would go hand-in-hand with a porn film needs to be considered when choosing whether or not to spend the next 94 minutes of your life with its characters. But at the end of it is it worth all of the fuss?
(NOTE: The following review will contain minor spoilers necessary solely for the discussion of plot and/or characters. If you’re the type of reader who prefers a review entirely spoiler-free, then I’d encourage you to skip down to the last three paragraphs for my final assessment. If, however, you’re accepting of a few modest hints at ‘things to come,’ then read on …)
From the product packaging: “When the adult website Lucky Bastard runs a contest giving the winner a night with a famous porn star, the outcome turns from fantasy to horror in a deadly nightmare no one could possibly have expected.”
Right off the bat, LUCKY BASTARD has some problems. For starters, I’ve read (rather widely) that this film has been dubbed a ‘horror’ film, and that’s egregiously incorrect. For the sake of clarification, there is nothing about this film that remotely resembles any traditional horror film. Is it a thriller? Yes … up to a point … but even in that respect LUCKY BASTARD probably veers closer toward a character drama with porn overtones than perhaps writer/director Robert Nathan and screenwriter Lukas Kendal probably wanted it to be.
As a thriller, I’m not even sure it worked effectively to ratchet up any legitimate thrills, and that’s mostly because all involved tried to imbue the project with a sense of the everyman – this could happen to anybody – but that’s not quite accurate. See, it could happen to any porn star; but given the fact that there are far more in the audience watching the film who aren’t porn stars then this specific reality isn’t all that likely to come true for us. Besides, setting the film within the confines of California almost guarantees that it isn’t likely to happen precisely this way in any of the other 49 states.
Now, when you set that big miss aside, then what you’re left with is two films: the set-up (about 50 minutes) and the pay-off (about 44 minutes). See, BASTARD was uneven – it felt like two thematically separate stories – and, as much as I hate to point out what may be the obvious, the more conventional stuff – the story of the porn star, her manager, their crew, and this nitwit who happens to win the online contest – works far better than the stuff that’s supposed to be thrilling. I suppose it’s safe to say that some of that might be due to the talent (or lack thereof) of the associated players – sure, Betsy Rue is pretty solid as the porn queen, and Don McManus is quite good as her seedy, sometimes-slimy manager-raconteur. But when your lunatic underplays the lunatic as weakly as Jay Paulson does here, then there really isn’t all that much to get your blood pumping except for the sex scenes … and those were far too conventional to honestly call them porn.
LUCKY BASTARD (2014) is produced by Vineyard Haven. DVD distribution is being handled by the Revolver Group. As for the technical specifications, the film is actually shot with some pretty good care despite being the usual herky-jerky nature of found-footage; most of the cameras in the latter half of the film are stationary ones, and that helps reduce any visual discomfort. As for the audio? It’s pretty good, though it could’ve been better. Lastly, if it’s special features you want, then you have a director’s commentary and a slew of differently-themed theatrical trailers for your consideration.
(MILDLY) RECOMMENDED. While others might find LUCKY BASTARD a bit thick to wrap their head around, I honestly had no problem with the more conventional elements of its lean and mean story, especially considering the fact that this was a found-footage-film. Granted, I know most folks don’t much care for films of this type – I ‘get’ that you think the sub-genre has essentially run its course – but there’s something to be said for creative types still trying to eek whatever life they can out of it, even when that means they’ve got to start mixing up film types (porn and found footage) to do so. However, once the film turns full force grim, the talent just wasn’t up-to-snuff to make this as special as it could’ve been.
In the interests of fairness, I’m pleased to disclose that the fine folks at Revolver Group provided me with a DVD copy of LUCKY BASTARD by request for the expressed purposes of completing this review; and their contribution to me in no way, shape, or form influenced my opinion of it.