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Blu-ray review: Hustlers

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★☆☆☆☆

On the cover of the Blu-ray and DVD being released by Lionsgate this week in the UK, the late Paul Walker is shown very prominently. There is a car behind him. He does indeed use a car in the movie, but I wonder if this is more about trying to evoke a sense of the Fast and Furious series for which the actor was most famous for. The movie looks like an action movie, with Paul Walker as the star. This is very far from the truth.

I can understand Lionsgate’s reasoning behind this and I can sympathise with their marketing choices. Hustlers (known as Pawn Shop Chronicles in the US) is a tough film to sell. It is a weird – and I mean weird – compilation of three short films, strung together to make a rather annoying feature film. All are linked to a pawn shop where the objects people trade in or buy become the springboard for the different stories. It has a clear, almost desperate, wish to be a Pulp Fiction for the twenty-first century, but that’s an almost unobtainable aim. Next to Tarantino’s masterpiece, this is an embarrassing failure.

The only interesting thing director Wayne Kramer does is play with the aspect ratio of the film, proving that screen shape and size does a lot to affect the narrative and mood of a scene. However, this type of thing has been done before and better by others, and in the end he fails to really justify it.

Paul Walker, who disappears rather quickly, gives an entertainingly off-the-wall performance as a racist meth addict, but his appearance is too fleeting to save the movie. There are other stars too, including Brendan Fraser and Elijah Wood, but none manage to lift the quality of the picture.

There are some scenes of extremely strong, vicious and sadistic violence that will shock even the lovers of Eli Roth-style torture-porn horror. It does mean that mean the film never becomes boring, but that isn’t meant as a complement. This is brutal nastiness dressed up as intelligent, quirky entertainment.

A note on the disc: The movie may be bad, but on the technical side of things, Lionsgate have outdone themselves. This is an excellent presentation. The HD image transfer is exceptional and sound is excellent.

Beautiful, crystal-clear images – true to the digital source – look first-rate, particularly when viewed on a big TV screen. Colours are often exaggerated one way or the other, but this is clearly an intended feature of the film. Extras include audio commentary with director Kramer and writer Adam Minarovich. 

Watch the trailer below: 

 




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