Lucky Bastard (2014) Review

[dropcap size=big]I[/dropcap]n an abstract sense, any film, no matter how budget-challenged the production may be, can be effective and entertaining if the basics, like acting, directing and writing are solid, and if the film can operate within its budget. Realistically speaking, however, the budget typically affects the basics, like being able to hire good actors and directors, but a poor script is inexcusable when the writer is usually the least expensive talent to hire or, in the case of Lucky Bastard, when the writing is free since the writers are composed of the executive producers. The writing team offered a novel concept, but they seemed torn between presenting reality and presenting a thriller. The result is something that feels neither real nor thrilling.

Lucky Bastard is an adult website owned and operated by Mike (Don McManus), a small-time pornography mogul, who also works with popular adult film star, Ashley Saint (Betsy Rue). The concept of Lucky Bastard is that one subscriber is handpicked to have sex with a particular adult film star. Together, Mike and Ashley review a few submissions and end up choosing Dave G. (Jay Paulson), an average guy, who is perhaps a little on the shy side. When the crew finally meets Dave, however, he proves to be far less than normal, and when his scene with Ashley doesn’t go as planned, everyone discovers just how menacing this shy guy can be.

In concept, the plot of Lucky Bastard is very solid material to work with. Internet pornography is ubiquitous, and this particular niche is popular, making this film essentially relevant in perpetuity. Unfortunately, Lucky Bastard doesn’t do anything more beyond the very barebones story of an unbalanced young man wreaking havoc on a film shoot. There’s a bit of setup in the beginning where the film makes a statement about the recklessness of the porn industry, but that’s as far as the film is willing to go to have an opinion. Dave could have been an anti-porn crusader, pretending to be an avid porn watcher for the rare opportunity to become the Lucky Bastard and get a chance to slay smut-peddler Mike and his cohorts. Or Dave could have been on the other end of the spectrum, inundated in pornography and sexualized before he was mentally capable of handling it, making his singular goal to have sex with Ashley something he might kill for. Granted, explanations aren’t necessary to create horror. When zombies attack, who needs context? Unfortunately, the writers present Dave as a “talking villain”, but with no consistency in or insight into his words and actions, there’s little to find compelling about him.

Lucky Bastard is also presented as “found footage”, which works for and against the film in big ways. On the positive side, it captures the low-budget look and feel of online pornography. It also allows for some interesting, candid conversations that make sense in this genre, but would seem forced in a traditionally scripted film. On the negative side, the filmmakers make a grievous mistake early on by showing the body count and how individual victims died at the beginning of the film, thus eliminating any tension later since audiences know who’s going to die where and how. On a side note, the decision to set the movie in a house used for reality television was inspired. As a result, Lucky Bastard is not bogged down with dialogue explaining why characters are still filming despite a homicidal maniac running loose inside the building.

Where the film shines is in creating the production within the production. The filmmakers are clearly in love with filmmaking and wanted to share that experience with audiences. So much so that more than half the film is devoted to the behind-the-scenes struggles of trying to get this porno shoot off the ground. As such, Lucky Bastard drags as a thriller and would probably have been more effective as a mockumentary or a straight comedy about the adult film industry, but that wasn’t the direction of this film. Instead, audiences are in for a muddled experience that most likely won’t satisfy no matter what kind of film audiences are expecting.