He sure isn’t: LUCKY BASTARD (2014)
Starring: Jay Paulson, Betsy Rue, Don McManus, Katherine Annette
Written by: Lukas Kendall, Robert Nathan
Directed by: Robert Nathan
Review by: Vincent Daemon
2014’s LUCKY BASTARD is a low-budget, highly entertaining *(and much deeper than what it seems on the surface) film from 2014, that until about a week ago I’d never heard of. It’s an incredibly simple premise, as well as all-too plausible *(some seriously unpleasant real-life incidents have been borne on stressed and highly insensitive porn shoots). It’s also presented in a first-person mockumentary format, which in this particular case is used to it’s highest potential in their making of a fairly accurate point.
We all know *(well, most of us) how “gonzo” extremetiy and rough pornography have become fairly mainstreamed since their turn of the century-era inception, into what they are now. The next logical step for porn to go was to sites like - - - *(probably best not to mention) - - - that are essentially glorified consensual-rape *(written into the confusing contracts that naive newbie actresses rarely read, also touched on in the film - - - and no, I’m not referring to Insex, that was something entirely different, covered in it’s own fascinating documentary from 2009, called Graphic Sexual Horror), scary, abusive, racist, and really just plain ugly to the point that it’s no longer porn - - - the obvious psychological (as well as physical) suffering of some of these girls is akin to almost a psyche-snuff, it all coming off *(there’s some choice wording) like a sadosexual Traces Of Death. *(Hmmm, there’s an idea.) It’s often an horrific misogynistic power play bait-and-switch, performed by long-time and ill-reputed professional swindlers in the business. And this is a good deal of standard, mainstream hardcore now. And yeah, I’ve watched which may make me a terrible human being, but whatever, it’s not really your business anyway. *(Keep in mind that porn and a good deal of hyper low-budgeted indie horror aren’t too far unrelated - - - Bill Z. Bub type fare I’m mostly speaking of, incidentally, and often involve the same directors and crew - - - under different names, of corpse, lest it be a porn actress in a starring role.) Before I digress any further, this film happens to touch on a bit of all of the above mentioned. Howsabout I just get to that.
So LUCKY BASTARD is about a streaming hardcore-porn reality series, called Lucky Bastard, itself about porn actresses being “cajoled” into sex with a random male participant who applied through their online forms. The particular Bastard in this case is Dave G. (played to an astonishing perfection by Jay Paulson). Dave is a regular schmoe off the streets, a fan and follower of the show, very socially awkward (perhaps to an Aspie degree), and supposedly a war vet. He’s tall and gawky and lank and a ginger, seeming like he has really not much going on in the way of a “life” *(who does - - - that shit only happens in John Hughes’ films), wherein this leaves plenty of room for his natural awkwardness and just being himself to be crudely down spoken to and incessantly picked upon like carrion by show owner/producer/host/vulture Mike (Don McManus), a character who seriously bears a resemblance to porn-lifer *(particularly of that over-rough variety aforementioned) Alex Sanders, and comes off like the infamous producer/director/faceless host-figure *(and living monster) “Khan Tusion.” McManus did a hell of a job in this role, pulling off *(more choice wording) Mike in perfect fashion. The character is so rooted in “what’s more extreme” and absolute self-centered obsessive-compulsive narcissism, that he is completely oblivious to what exactly is going on around him, and repeatedly throwing kerosene on a slow-ignition fire that realistically could have been avoided. But the sheer recklessness of the idea of the show - - - and there are and have been similar, like BLUE from the 1980’s - - - and Mike’s greed and lack of radar, all work together to keep him too busy to notice.
However, actress superstar Ashley Saint *(portrayed as what a good deal of industry actresses are: a woman doing what she has to, while she can as porn is a time-limited business of sorts, to support her children and ensure them a stable future - - - it’s a tricky role that actress Betsy Rue performs as though she were the real deal), Mike’s ex-wife and star of the episode, picks up on Dave G.’s awkwardness and bizarre behavioral affectations from the get-go almost immediately. Slowly, the rest of the crew do as well, and offer suggestion after suggestion to Mike as to how to get rid of him. But Dave G. is the “Lucky Bastard,” he signed the contract - - - it’s not so easy. And though odd, Dave is far from stupid. In fact, he’s paid very close attention to everything that they said and did, and has a memory like a fukking elephant. However, he too is naive, and suffers a severe inability to distinguish real life from the fantasy/escape that porn sells and offers its viewers. Ashley refuses to do it, and Dave G. is essentially fired on camera, and knows all of this will be on the website, as he tells them that he is their clientele, he watches their videos, and is full well aware the “Lucky Bastard” is usually some loser mocked to infinity. He knows what they do.
Needless to say, Dave G. is not happy about this. The stunningly attractive Catherine Annette plays Mike’s newbie girlfriend Casey, and she offers to do the scene, as well as a host of other ideas that may have led to a different outcome, but is incessantly belittled and shutout by Mike and his ego-id run rampant. Catherine Annette has been acting for years in strange films and b-fare, and her beauty never ceases to fascinate me. And she uses that to a full affect here, trying to help but being of no real anything, due to Mike, so she storms off.
Mike calls for a regular pro guy to come work with Ashley (so that the money spent renting the fully cameraed “Big Brother”-style house built exclusively for reality shows isn’t wasted). It’s the guy seen very graphically fukking a bound and shrieking Catherine Annette in the opening frames of the film. The pro shows up, and begins to do his this while Dave G. gets a ride back to some Los Angeles bus station, very much against his wishes. So he solves the problem, bashing the drivers skull in and taking the car back to the house. From there Dave G. goes on a slow-burn rampage of terror, humiliation, murder and obsession as he inadvertently ends up having to dispose of everyone but Ashley, whom he get’s to finally get his 42 second, three-pump-chump rocks off with, despite her verbal lashing, then a twist showing just how intelligent and clever she really was.
Questions and curiosities we all wonder about the adult industry are raised and in some ways answered, others not, merely for the fact there are no answers. Dave’s confrontation of Josh (the replacement stud), as Josh is cowering with a gun in his face and asked if he’s ever done gay porn *(questioning the old rumor of most male porn stars being bi or gay), if he could, or if he could even crank one out with a gun in his face, to which he does, much to Dave’s disgust, which gets him killed anyway. Dave’s plans for and doings to Mike are vile, and actually kind of funny as they are ghastly. A lot of the crew he needs to dispose of merely due to ensure his own safety once he realizes he himself has gone too far. What is too far? When has a line of no return been crossed, within the confines of life? Who you have to be, or become, to keep a family fed or even yourself, for that matter? Does the profession define the person? Has a notoriously heartless industry that sells holes-n-poles become as dead-eyed as half its participants? Is it really just sex?
The film is incredibly light on gore, most of it coming from the various bludgeonings and gunshot wounds that splatter about, and while the violence is fairly vicious, it never seems gratuitous or too over the top. In fact the film could’ve used a bit of that in my opinion. The kills could’ve been more camera-centric, as opposed to just of screen and some blood-spatter back. But otherwise, while not fantastic, it makes for an interesting think piece of a film, is entertaining, and not something entirely unlikely to make a national front page headline. Currently on both Hulu (the free part) and On Demand, it’s pretty easy to find, and if you’re curious to step outside the usual box of standard horror and give this slow celluloid *(yeah, I know it was shot digital, whatever) porno-based pot-boiler of how inability to distinguish fantasy/reality and sex, in certain situations, the effect of constant degradation, especially to one as outcast, confused, and alone as Dave G., can drive them to madness, and an industry that thrives on sucking dicks and souls, giving not a fukk about it’s actors/actresses, or even aficionados - - - as they/we are merely just objects and money.
I enjoyed it, an interesting concept done well, and a definite think piece. Not the worst way to kill 90 minutes, and not for everybody. I’d probably just be cranking one out to some wretched violent porn anyway.
Thanks for reading,