Hustlers Blu-ray Review
Wacky comic-book violence with a dark and seedy underbelly
Hustlers Blu-ray Review
Director Wayne Kramer’s adaptation of writer Adam Minarovich’s story is an irreconcilable, incomprehensible mess.Unfortunately, it just doesn't make any sense. It purportedly tells the tale of three disparate groups of characters whose lives all intersect at a small Deep South town pawn shop, where their fate is quite literally determined by the choices they make. There’s a trio of wannabe white supremacist meth heads who are planning to rob a local meth lab; there’s a honeymooning husband who becomes obsessed with an old wedding ring and goes on a quest to find out who pawned it; and then there’s a down-on-his luck Elvis impersonator struggling to hold it together for one last gig.
In watching Pawn Shop Chronicles (the original, better title) you won’t struggle to hold onto the three-arc narrative – it’s Pulp Fiction given a Southern Fried flavouring and seen through the eyes of somebody on crystal meth – but, beyond that, the narrative operates on a second level, one which the Director and Writer weren’t quite on the same page about. This is the reason why the film doesn’t make any sense.The film boasts an eclectic ensemble cast, and you have to feel sorry for the majority of them, because they are stuck in a weird comic-book-styled comedy-drama, where horrific things happen, and, more often than not, they’re uncomfortably played for laughs. You can see why the late Paul Walker got involved in the piece – he was interested in working with the director from his early, impressive Running Scared, again, and probably thought this would be another stylish indie flick. It’s a shame, because he really invests in his junkie meth-head character, and comes across as surprisingly convincing. Is there secretly something truly worthy about this piece? No, not really. There’s two already half-baked ideas fused together by people who were interpreting the same story in different ways; neither of which would have really made for a great film, but either of which would have at least made for a comprehensible film. And if you’re prepared to forgive and forget, and assume it’s all just a meth-haze mess, then you’ll likely still struggle to countenance the depraved sex slave sequence amidst the rest of the comedy drama. It’s all a big catch-22 situation.
What is Hustlers Blu-ray Picture QualityPawn Shop Chronicles hits UK Region B-locked Blu-ray complete with a strong 1080p/AVC-encoded High Definition video presentation framed in the original aspect ratio of 1.78:1 widescreen, shifting briefly to 2.35:1 purportedly to give the scene in question a different look, but not really capitalising on the moment any further.
Heavily-stylised, with chapters introduced by comic-book images which come to life, this colourful film looks largely excellent.
Detail is excellent throughout, with some impressive facial close-ups, and some equally impressive background observations, textures and layers. Clarity is superior, with no signs of any edge enhancement, digital defects or other anomalies. DNR application is non-intrusive, with a suitably filmic level of grain applied to the piece and running throughout it.
The colour scheme is broad and vibrant, playing to the comic book stylisation and playfully fantastical sensibilities of the piece, and really popping in some of the more extravagant uses of vivid tones. Black levels are reasonably strong and allow for some decent shadow detail. Despite all of this, the presentation falls short of a demo quality rating, coming up short purely due to its low-budget heritage, with leaves it with a distinctive look that simply doesn't compete with most modern big budget efforts.
How does Hustlers Blu-ray SoundThe accompanying DTS-HD Master Audio 5.1 track has a much easier job impressing beyond its low budget heritage, cranking up the exaggerated visual effects embellishments right from the get-go, a la Kick-Ass, and using highly stylised audio as much as video.
The audio is just as stylised as the video, giving the film the same sort of comic-book punch you get from the likes of the Kick Ass movies.
Dialogue comes across clearly and coherently throughout the piece, from whispers to rattled meth-head sprays, from shouts to screams, it all emanates from across the fronts and centre channels with good clarity and fine precision. Effects are myriad, as already noted, and its this exaggerated output that really lends some punch to the piece, investing in the surrounds and LFE with equal verve, and igniting the soundscape. The score too adds to the production, truly bringing some scenes to life, and dominating the track when it does.
Hustlers Blu-ray ExtrasAll we get is an Audio Commentary, which is more than you might expect from a low budget piece like this, but which is actually not a whole lot of value. It's participants - the writer and the director - get on well together, and chat a little around the edges of this piece, but don't offer any kind of coherent explanation as to what the hell the film means. Each one offers his own version, and then they both just laugh about how they had different ideas about the script. The dubious highlight of the Commentary has to be a moment where the Director compares how film critics pre-judge his works with the way white supremacists are ignorantly racist. Classic.
Is Hustlers Blu-ray Worth BuyingPawn Shop Chronicles - which was stupidly retitled Hustlers probably because they couldn't think of a more generic title - is a muddled affair which sports a few interesting performances and a few nice ideas, but often devolves into either inappropriately light-hearted depravity or just plain nonsense, confused by the fact that the two most important people involved in the production had different interpretations of the same story.
This Region B-locked video presentation sports very good video and audio, and a Commentary which only emphases the confusion between the parties involved, making it seem like they really did not care about the impact this had on their production. The majority of fans drawn to this piece will likely be Paul Walker enthusiasts so, be warned, he's only in it for about a quarter of an hour and, despite his reunion with the director from the engaging Running Scared, this is nothing like that movie.
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