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LUCKY BASTARD (movie review)

Review by Clara Armstrong
Produced by Jim Wynorski
Written by Lukas Kendall, Robert Nathan
Directed by Robert Nathan
Starring Don McManus, Betsy Rue, Jay Paulson,
Chris Wylde, Catherine Annette, Deborah Zoe, 
Lanny Joon, Lee Kholafai, Clint Brink, Angela Shin

Lucky Bastard is the directorial debut for Robert Nathan (Law & Order), the Peabody-winning, Emmy-nominated veteran writer. The film stars Don McManus (The Shawshank Redemption) as the proprietor of a website that invites fans to have sex with porn stars. Jay Paulson (Mad Men) plays Dave, an eager young fan given a chance to have sex with the fabulous Ashley Saint, played by Betsy Rue (My Bloody Valentine). Everyone gets more than they bargained for from the seemingly mild-mannered Dave…to gruesome results.

– Original Byline

Based on the first few shots of Lucky Bastard, you would think that this movie is nothing more than an amateur porn video shot by a home enthusiast who has pocket change to get some decent equipment, but whose quality falls short of the soft-core porn you can catch in the wee morning hours on Cinemax. If you were thinking it, then you would be right. Thank goodness, because in being a shoddy pseudo porn film, it’s an engaging story about the price of personal dignity and what it costs to buy and to relinquish.

The premise of Lucky Bastard is that in spite of the blatantly shallow and unrealistic nature of the porn reality, there are those of us who would surrender dignity just to live out our sexual desires and to be a part of it.

Mike (Don McManus) runs a modestly profitable porn website and enlists the participation of his biggest act, Ashley Saint (Besty Rue) to star in his latest online endeavor – The show “Lucky Bastard” which allows one lucky fan to have the night of their dreams with a porn star. Rue’s Ashley Saint is a porn star at the peak of her popularity in Mike’s virtual world, and is setting her sights on more conventional acting roles. She is incredibly reluctant to play a part in Mike’s new fantasy and needs major convincing every step of the way. Dave (Jay Paulson) is the lucky schmuck of the hour, who comes to have his desires fulfilled, but wants to hold on to his dignity in the process. A futile effort as the show is set up for the abject humiliation and degradation of its volunteer participants. In the background is Casey (Catherine Annette) a younger starlet who is romantically (?) involved with Mike and tries to capitalize on her relationship with him and remove herself from the front of the front of the camera.

From the conceptual side, the writers of this movie successfully convey their point – Public humiliation is a profitable commodity that can be bought and sold for a price that’s just as humiliating.

Mike and his motley crew of technicians, Kris (Chris Wylde) and Nico (Lanny Joon) are believably cruel in the detached way they viewed Dave. Dave’s agreement to play his part made him less than human in their eyes, he was now a prop that who’s feelings made him even more comical. The main concern is about keeping sex flowing, no matter the source. Dave’s desperate attempts to regain his dignity, naïve as they were, they were calculatingly manipulated to further progress on the show. The movie also touched on the age-old story that people who work in the porn industry are looking to escape it. There is a commentary about just the women seeking more than what the industry offered, especially as their male counterparts seemed to be just fine with their role but that’s a very broad view on my part.

Looking at the movie through the thriller lens, there are no surprises in this movie and that’s fine too.

Watchers who read the story byline know what to expect – Things are going to go awry for Mike and his gang, we’re just waiting to see when it happens and what it’s going to look like. It’s like a pregnancy, there’s a baby coming, we just are waiting for the when and what the baby will look like. Even shot with home video style, the movie looses none of the taut tension is quickly establishes as Dave exacts his revenge.

Cleverly and quite strategically, director Robert Nathan provides glimpses of humanity throughout the movie that tied viewers to each character, which offset the shallow porn reality the characters existed in. There was Casey playing on the piano, Ashley Saint’s preoccupation with her children and Kris the cameraman’s heralding of his “Legitimate” credentials, all of which reminded you the viewer that these were still people with the same insecurities and anxieties as everyone else. And because the characters felt real, their ultimate fates were.

The movie opens up with a rape porn scene being shot, and clips of many other scintillating scenes as the story plays out.

These shots suggest that director Robert Nathan and his band of writers and producers are trying to draw in real porn fans. When they do, because if you’re a fan of porn it’s a matter of when not if, viewers should be sucked in and fully engaged.

Because aside from the flesh shots and the backstage pass to a porn production, writers Lukas Kendall and Robert Nathan tell a thrilling story that make you think with your brain and not other parts of your body.

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