Lucky Bastard is a baffling movie. This is a found footage movie, but doesn’t use any of the advantages that come with the genre. It’s a horror/stalker movie that takes it’s goddamn time getting to the part where the antagonist does any antagonizing. There’s lots of explicit nudity, but it starts censoring itself when it reaches Lars Von Trier levels (read: the good parts). I didn’t know what to make of the damn thing, but I think that’s because the movie didn’t know what to make of itself.
Figuring out what this movie is trying to do is like untangling Christmas lights; no one knows where to begin, everyone yells different shit at that makes no sense, and alcohol only makes you madder. But I have to start somewhere, and since the beginning isn’t a fucking option, let’s start with the easiest thing to discuss: the story (keeping with the analogy, this is the strand that it loosest, so you pull, only to tighten it up, causing those judgemental, bitchy relatives to throw out drunken suggestions because no one else in the family likes talking to them and…OH MY GOD! JUST LEAVE ME THE FUCK ALONE!)
The small cast and crew of an online porn series called ‘Lucky Bastard’, sets out to film their latest episode. So far, nothing too confusing. The main actress is reluctant since she’s a mother who doesn’t want her real life mixed with her porn life. Why she allows herself to be a part of a meta porn series that ‘follows’ the actors around, then gets pissy when the director follows her around behind the scenes doesn’t make much sense, but this footage needs to get ‘found’ somehow, so to hell with rational explanations. The ‘Lucky Bastard’ for this episode happens to be a creep, so of course the overbearing director does everything in his power to do the shoot in order to avoid losing money. Meanwhile, the creepy guy goes into full on murder mode. What you have here is not the synopsis, it’s a summary.
Most of this movie is about the director Mike (Don McManus) trying to get the sex scene filmed. If you don’t know a lot about the ins and outs of shooting porn, this can be fascinating, if you’re trying to, say, watch a movie, it’s fucking annoying! You know from the beginning that Dave, the creepy dude (Jay Paulson) is going to lose his shit and start fucking up the cast and crew, so why make me wait over an hour to see him finally snap? This is a thriller, right? The last twenty minutes of Mike stalking and killing people leads me to think so, but the goddamn ‘behind the scenes’ bullshit (also known as the stuff I’m not jerking off to in porn) overshadows any tension that could be built early on. Lucky Bastard blueballs it’s own thriller concept!
Building on this whole ‘how can we make porn unappealing’ clusterfuck is the film’s tone. Imagine you’re still working on those Christmas lights. You plug them in to make untangling them easier (and to shut up that ONE Aunt who won’t stop screaming the idea at you) and two different colors light up. They’re two completely different objects, that should make things easier, right? Not long into it you find out that finding four ends instead of two, along with switching back and forth between the different sets, is taking much longer and is actually making it harder to untangle. By choosing two completely opposing tones, Lucky Bastard walks a fine line with it’s presentation, and just like the strangling of Aunt Elsa, it doesn’t go over well.
The relationships between Mike, Dave, and Ashley Saint (Betsy Rue) should create the mystery and tension required to drive this film, yet by trying to build up the nuances of the porn world, the much-needed suspense flops like a soft dong (which is also a problem with this movie…yeah, that sounds weird, but I’ll explain in a minute). Mike and Ashley spend so much time squabbling about why she doesn’t want to have sex with Mike that much of the movie’s run time is lost by repeated scenes. She won’t fuck him, she will, she won’t, bullshit excuse, Dave gets a little frustrated, cut to another character talking to someone else about how Ashley won’t fuck Mike, I DON’T FUCKING CARE! Mike is getting more and more pissed with each passing scene and we get to see him dwell on it for two or three minutes at a time! He should be showing his violent side by the middle of the second act to cement the creepy tone I know Lucky Bastard was going for! By the time he finally kills someone, I was more relieved than disturbed.
Now, let’s talk dongs.
This movie is as flakey about the world it’s building as it is about crafting it’s story. It REALLY wants to draw you into the world of porn (which isn’t that hard considering that most of us have been “drawn in” since we were thirteen years old) and it does this by simulating explicit sex, as well as showing explicit nudity. And why not? It got slammed with an NC-17 rating, so go for it! Films like 9 Songs and Caligula went all out and were kind enough to provide us with uncensored whack material to distract us from their shitty stories. Meanwhile, Lucky Bastard was given this freedom and tried to make it the most R rated NC-17 movie that ever existed.
What do I mean by this? It feels like the filmmakers were going for an R rating, and by doing so, made some choices that really take you out of the movie, including flat-out censoring male erections with pixellated boxes. Not the penis entirely, soft, flappy dongs are perfectly okay in R section of the MPAA’s book as long as they’re not on-screen for that long, just the raging vein monsters. I’m not saying that I’m bummed that I didn’t get to see Josh (Lee Kholafai) stroke his General Patton in the third act of the movie, but I’m watching a found footage film, so who added the boxes? The police? When reviewing crime scene footage, is the LAPD captain of each district required to censor nudity for the more sensitive detectives? Fuck no! It’s obviously for us, the audience. Somehow, between lines of dialogue involving how hard someone wants to cum and simulated rape, an erect penis was too much for the filmmakers to show us.
Overall, is this movie bad? Eh…
It’s not good, but unlike getting through those Christmas lights, you won’t end up throwing empty liquor bottles at singing children out of pure rage. My gut reaction to learning the premise to Lucky Bastard was that I was going to have to sit through an hour and a half of terrible porn star acting. The talent runs the gambit from ‘serviceable’ to ‘holy shit, you’re really fucking good’, none of which takes you out of the film. The writing that doesn’t require you to believe that the murderous, cockteased nerd in the other room is less interesting than scenes involving a crying porn actress (there’s a time and a place and my penis does not want this right now!) is actually quite good. The scenes where the actors have to act like they’re making a porno sounds like it’s ripped from a porno, and the moments where they have to behave like real people (I refuse to make a joke about how porn actors aren’t real people, but I know you did dear reader. For shame…) come off as genuine. Scene for scene, this film is well made; it’s just too bad that the same could be said for reading instructions for IKEA furniture.
Will I refer this movie to other people? No. Even if the story was worth risking the embarrassment of explaining to a family member why that woman getting pounded from behind is a critical part of the plot, the whole ‘making a porno’ angle just doesn’t hold enough interest. It does need to be said that it’s not the porn itself that brings the movie down, just that it’s a less interesting version of the Hollywood scene (which has had more gangsters, murders, incest, rape, murderous gangsters, and incest rape than the porn world could ever claim) Anyone who gives this movie a chance will find that they didn’t hate it as much as they thought, but they’ll feel like they’d rather do something else with their time, like actually fucking.