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Blu-Ray Review: Kino Lorber’s Hustle (KL Studio Classics) 


Burt Reynolds is a cop having more on his mind than trying to solve a teenager’s death in Robert Aldrich’s Hustle.  New on Blu-ray from Kino Lorber

The Film 

By the end of Hustle, one does pose the question… What’s it all about Alfie? 

I’m not Alfie and I’m not entirely sure.  Hustle much like Paul Schrader’s effective and haunted Hardcore, Robert Aldrich’s Hustle attempts to say something about the seedy underbelly and the politics of the sex industry.  The results are something at moments striking and effective, mostly it’s something that misses the mark by inches. 

Burt Reynolds plays burn-out Cop Phil Gaines, who along with his partner Louis Belgrave (Paul Winfield) wade through the day-to-day politics of LAPD work.  They approach it with the sort of flat, uncaring, unaffectedness of a trash man picking up cans on his daily route.  Though Gaines as of late has been more compassionate and understanding much to the chagrin of Belgrave and his superiors.  The compassion culminates in a recently murdered teenage girl and her grieving parents (Ben Johnson and Eileen Brennan).  The case doesn’t just affect his work but his relationship with his girlfriend/sex worker (Catherine Deneuve).  Gaines begins to see the cracks in his daily life that culminates in both the police work and personal life coming to shambles.  

It isn’t that Hustle is a bad film but rather one that is cleaner than the world it is portraying really is.  This affects everything the film is trying to say.  Where Hardcore or even 8mm has an air of stench and look of grime – with the intent of the same theme – pull off this successfully, whereas Hustle just can’t.  

The acting is stellar with Reynolds and Winfield playing the type of cops that are relics of an entirely different era.  Winfield is especially good with the sort of zeal and disaffected manner that makes you believe that he really doesn’t understand why his partner has started to become a “bleeding heart”.  Reynolds is in romantic serious mode here as a man holding it together by a thread.  What makes his work fascinating is the millimeters of change that begins to occur and spill over into his personal life.  

The film’s secret weapon is, you guessed it, Catherine Deneuve.  Unfortunately, she’s been saddled with the cliché of clichés as a sex worker with a heart of gold.  Though Deneuve never delivers anything in the way that other less accomplished actors would have.  The most troubling part of the work is the fight and assault between her and Reynolds that turns from assault to “lovemaking”.  In a film that appears to be sex-positive, the scene stops the film dead in its track and doesn’t feel like it ever recovers.  It’s the power of Deneuve’s work here that makes the scene feel so … unnecessary.

Hustle isn’t a bad film just one that doesn’t want to go as far into the cesspool of the male-dominated controlled sex worker trade (at the time, probably still this way as well) and how it would affect one’s daily life.  Topped off with an Ending (with a cameo appearance by Freddy Kruger himself) that feels like a cop-out.  

The Transfer

The all-new HD Master – From a 4K Scan of the 35mm Original Camera Negative is a stunner.  The image is always sharp and consistent, and that is free of any spots or blemishes.  The grain structure is varied at points, especially during the darker police station scenes, one scene especially between Brennan and Reynolds looks especially noisy but one watches it, and it appears the scene was optically zoomed in originally which causes the issue.  Other than that the image is a beautiful representation of the theatrical image.    

The Extras

They include the following;

  • Audio Commentary by Film Critics Alain Silver and James Ursini, Authors of WHAT EVER HAPPENED TO ROBERT ALDRICH?: HIS LIFE AND HIS FILMS
  • Theatrical Trailer
  • 8 TV Spots

The all-new Audio Commentary by Film Critics Alain Silver and James Ursini, Authors of WHAT EVER HAPPENED TO ROBERT ALDRICH?: HIS LIFE AND HIS FILMS, begins with their bonafides and the opening and how this was the only RoBurt production that came to fruition, and a few other projects that could have been.  Some of the details include how Catherine Deneuve was cast – and why she was specifically cast by Reynolds and Aldrich; the book that the film was based on – a discussion about how they purchased a script rather than a novel and then adapt; why Aldrich chose the editing style – and how it works and doesn’t throughout the film; the work of Eileen Brennan – and some tragic issues that she dealt with; the work and personal history of Ben Johnson; the shooting style Aldrich and cinematographer Joseph Biroc; a larger discussion about Noir and Neo Noir – and Aldrich’s part in both movements; a larger discussion of the various cast and behind-the-scene crew that made the film; and much more.  Silver and Ursini do a good job of dissecting the film’s visual language and style along with giving an account of the various themes, behind-the-scenes anecdotes, and more.   

TV Spots (3:46) – the 8 30-second TV spots come in various quality. 

Rounding out the special features are trailers for Hustle (3:14); Fuzz (2:59); Shamus (3:04); White Lightning (2:26); The Longest Yard (4:04); Gator (1:09) 

The Final Thought 

Hustle is a great package for any fan of the film or the work of Aldrich.  Kino continues to release considered special editions of films.  Recommended. 

Kino Lorber’s Blu-Ray edition of Hustle is out now

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