2014 - 94 minutes
Directed by: Robert Nathan
Written by: Robert Nathan, Lukas Kendall
Starring: Don McManus, Betsy Rue, Jay Paulson, Catherine Annette, Lanny Joon, Lee Kholafai
Porn and preachy don’t mix well. Not unless there is a skillful balance between the cheeky and the moralizing, something Lucky Bastard sorely lacks. Mining comedy from a fake-out rape isn’t a good way to start. I suppose the joke’s on us as the toned performers and sleazy, goateed producer laugh at their ruse before cutting the scene. This could be viewed as a comment on the fragile mindset of the proverbial porn consumer, or it could just be misguided and tasteless. It doesn’t really matter because Lucky Bastard continues to talk but says very little.
The movie is presented found footage style, with cameras capturing the filming a new scene for a popular online porn series. Sleaze maestro Mike (recognizable character actor Don McManus) runs LuckyBastard.com, which accepts video submissions from fans, with the “lucky bastard” picked to have sex with a favorite starlet. Mike waves some cash at his prized girl Ashley Saint (Betsy Rue) and she reluctantly agrees to hook up with whatever poor schlub is put in front of her. Of course a painfully obvious creeper, Dave (Jay Paulson), ends up as the chosen one. Through several warning signs – an in-depth knowledge of Ashley’s true identity and an intense protection of his own – the crew and Ashley plow forward, determined to make this doomed scene with Dave work. After Dave’s performance problems wreck the shoot, he’s escorted from the premises, only to return with the worst of intentions.
One thing Lucky Bastard has going for it is the acceptable plausibility of its reality conceit. There’s always b-roll running during the shoot and the majority of the action takes place in a mansion that is an actual porno set in the San Fernando Valley, complete with cameras in the walls. A washed-out video look also plays into the idea of authenticity. Unfortunately, there’s just not much for all those cameras to capture. After opening with an ominous title card and “actual police footage” of a crime scene (the house) showing various bodies strewn about, we know where things are headed, it’s just a matter of getting there.
And getting there is zero-percent of the fun. Director Robert Nathan and his co-writer Lukas Kendall sketch their characters broadly, but expect us to find their comeuppance profound. Ashely is a single mom who is breaking her “no amateurs” rule this ONE TIME. New girl on the scene Casey (Catherine Annette) is a talented pianist, but desired this chaotic lifestyle. Mike ignores his kids and an ex for the business. The camera guys are just doing their jobs. They all made their choice, and now Dave is making them pay for it.
While there is copious nudity and fairly graphic simulated sex that earns an NC-17, the horror/thriller elements are tame and poorly staged. Dave creeps around for a while, his prey missing several opportunities for escape or attack as a group. Shouting orders like “if I think you’re using your phone, I’ll kill [so-and-so]” don’t contain a lot of menace. And apparently a couple slaps to the head or a bullet to the back of the shoulder are enough for instant fatality.
For all its attempts at salacious with a side of sermon, Lucky Bastard’s biggest sin is being boring and predicable in its cruelty. Especially when it concerns the audience.
© 2014 by Blake Crane