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"It just doesn't feel right...it's not a regular gaff."
on January 12, 2007
I got the German produced feature The Hustle (2000), aka Abzocker - Die Eine eiskalte Affäre, for one reason, because it featured the buxomly beautiful Bobbie Phillips (Showgirls, Cheyenne), and, after watching it last night, I can honestly say she's the only reason anyone would be interested in this film as it pretty much stunk on ice. Directed by Stuart Cooper (Overlord), whose primary work seems to consist of schlocky direct to video and foreign made-for-TV features. Also appearing is Benjamin Sadler (The Apocalypse), Thomas Heinze (The Devil and Ms. D), Stephen McHattie (Beverly Hills Cop III, Secretary), and Robert Wagner (A Kiss Before Dying, The Towering Inferno), in a relatively minor role.
Maya (Philips) and Tony (Sadler) are a couple of low rent grifters who work the local hotel bars in perpetuating their credit card scam. Here's the deal...Maya, dressed in an excessively tight and slinky outfit (hotchie momma!), makes the scene and picks up some unsuspecting schlub under the pretense of taking him back to her room for a romp between the sheets. Once in the room, she gets the guy to disrobe to a certain extent, to which she then moves things into the bedroom. While this is happening Tony enters the hotel room, fishes through the guy's clothes, removes his wallet, and then leaves. Tony then uses some sort of portable computer set up to swipe the available funds on the schmuck's cards, and afterwards, he returns to the room in the role of the disgruntled boyfriend, chasing the victim out before any serious salami action occurs. It's a relatively simple plan, and one that works, but both Maya and Tony long for the big score. Their opportunity comes in the form of a man named Pierce (McHattie), who initially goes along with their scam, playing the unsuspecting businessman, but once in the room it's revealed he knows an awful lot about Maya and Tony, in terms of who they are and what they do...turns out Pierce works for a wealthy woman who's looking to dump her husband, and wants to ensure things go smoothly by getting some incriminating evidence against him in the form of photographs detailing him involved in acts of infidelity. This is where Maya and Tony come in...Maya is supposed to cozy up to the mark, a man named Martin (Heinze), and weasel her way into his apartment in the city (seems the man and his wife hold a few properties), while Tony, set up in a room across the street, is supposed to take the pictures. Neither Maya or Tony (especially not Tony) are too keen on the idea of Maya actually having to schtup a mark, but the payday is 50 large so they go along with the scheme. Well, before you know it things get twisted around six ways to Sunday as it seems everyone is trying to run some sort of scam, which results in jealously, deception upon deception, and eventually a murder or two....
As I said earlier the only real reason to get this video is to appreciate the fabulous babalicious Bobbie Phillips. There's a sequence in particular, about forty-five minutes in, where we get the full monty, as Phillips' character finally scores with the mark. Throughout the first half of the film Phillips' character wears very tight, skimpy, and revealing outfits, but then things change up as she tends to dress a bit more conservatively, as she begins playing a particular role. Both forms were equally tantalizing, but I ended up preferring the latter out of a matter of class (I'll take an attractive, smartly dress woman of apparent means over a scantily clad hootchie momma any day). As far as the story, well, it starts off simple enough, but soon devolves into a fairly complicated and convoluted mess as the characters, many of who don't seem particularly bright, are constantly switching allegiances while working their own often ridiculously conceived cons. I thought the performances by Phillips, McHattie, and Wagner where decent enough, but those by Benjamin Sadler and Thomas Heinze, who played the characters Tony and Martin, respectively, where just plain awful. Neither seemed capable of holding their own, and only served to drag the story down. As far as the direction, it was passable, while the story, which seemed a low rent mixture of The Grifters (1990) and Indecent Proposal (1993), didn't do anyone one any favors. The one element of the script that really annoyed me was the some of the characters consistently referring to their line of work as `the gaff', which is an appropriate term as it refers to cheating, or fleecing, but the word is more commonly used in other terms, particularly by fishermen to refer to a large, iron hook with a handle used to land large fish. It's usage here just didn't fit in, and I would have rather they used the term `grift', which they did on occasion, making the use of the word gaff all the more odd (seems to me if you were in the business you'd either call it a `gaff' or a `grift', and not both). This might not seem like much, but know there's plenty of little elements similar to this scattered throughout, resulting in a general, overall sloppiness. Some of my favorite scenes, besides those with Ms. Phillips, featured Stephen McHattie's character Pierce and his continual baiting of Tony, the latter being a moronic, misogynistic little weasel worthy of much abuse. Eventually Pierce gives Tony a serious beat down, so that's worth sticking around for...all in all this is a tepid, overly elaborate two star thriller which I'm giving a extra star only because of Ms. Phillips' presence. Fans of Ms. Phillips may appreciate it, but most discriminating viewers, those who appreciate a solid story and interesting characters, will find little of value here.
The picture, presented in fullscreen (1.33:1), looks mediocre to decent on this Key Video DVD release, and the audio comes through well enough, although I did have a lot of problems with actually hearing the dialog as it wasn't uncommon for the annoying musical scoring to drown out what the various characters were saying during certain scenes. This wasn't a problem with the audio on the DVD, but rather due to the incompetent idiot who mixed the original audio. Now, I'm not a professional sound engineer, but I do know that a musical score, even one as lame as the one featured in this film, is generally supposed to complement that which appears on the screen, and not overpower the dialog to the point where the audience can't hear what's being said. Anyway, there aren't any interactive menus on this DVD (the movie starts playing when the DVD is inserted into a player), and, subsequently, no extras, which didn't surprise me in the least.