Reminiscent of Sunset Boulevard, Hustler White transposes the action from the silver screen's old movie backlots to contemporary male prostitution and the porn industry. Said to be an homage to classic Hollywood cinema.
Picture the classic film 'Sunset Boulevard.' Okay, you've got that beautiful movie in mind? Good. Now picture this movie being remade in 1996. Do you have the image of mid 90s fashion, music, and style sense? Good. Now take the characters of this remake and remove them from the setting of a 1950s Hollywood backlot, throw them on the streets of LA and into the world of gay pornography and male prostitution and you will have completed the necessary remake mental picture to prepare yourself for viewing 'Hustler White.' If you're an open-minded individual that can handle explicit, frankly-depicted sexual content - you're in good shape for this viewing. If you have some personal proclivities that would run afoul of this kind of material, I suggest you don't even finish reading this review - this movie ain't for you.
Montgomery Ward (Tony Ward) lays floating face down dead in a pool. From above his voice calls down and begins to tell the tale of how he ended up in this situation. "Monti" as he's called by his friends and customers is a street hustler working LA corners turning tricks and doing anything and everything he can to please his laundry list of dedicated customers.
Jürgen (Co-Director Bruce LaBruce) is a famous German author who has recently arrived in California. While researching a book he aims to write about gay prostitution, Jürgen meets Monti as he tours the streets of LA. Jürgen is instantly taken in by Monti's charms and swiftly develops a rather unhealthy obsessive crush on the youthful street hustler. As we follow Monti through a series of trysts tending to the needs of his clients, Jürgen becomes more and more like Norma Desmond to a point that may ultimately be a bit unhealthy for the young Monti.
Alright I'll cut to the chase with this one. People at this point are probably wondering just how explicit this film actually is considering the story. The short answer is that yeah, it's explicit - perhaps even uncomfortably so for some viewers. I took an alternative cinema class in school that had an entire section dedicated to films that catered to the LGBT community so I had an idea what to expect, however, the opening and some scenes later in the film were a bit surprising in their frankness. Adults with grounded sensibilities shouldn't have much trouble with what's briefly on screen and only seen in quick flashes, but those uncomfortable with seeing consensual simulated sex between two men should probably stay away. That isn't to say this film is actual pornography, that depends entirely on what your definition of "is" is. On the porn scale where out and out hardcore would be a 10 and something like '50 Shades of Grey' would barely register as a 1 - 'Hustler White' is probably a 6, maybe a 7 depending on your personal point of view. There is certainly mature sexuality in the film for sure, but it's hardly sexual. An errant Google search will get your far more explicit results than what this film has to offer.
On the other hand, this movie is actually rather funny in many places. Much of the humor comes from the numerous acts both sexual and nonsexual Monti must perform to please specific clients. 'Hustler White' works as an expose and as a satire of the male prostitution scene and gay porn industry. Leading the charge through the whole show is star Toni Ward. Obviously he and his other cast members aren't professional actors, but they do what they can to bring the material home in an earnest and heartfelt way. Does it work as a remake to 'Sunset Boulevard?' Sort of yes. Many of the story beats are there, but it isn't a complete remake of the material.
Considering the budgetary restraints of the film, 'Hustler White' is actually an accomplishment in the world of gorilla filmmaking. Clearly the production shot much of this film very quickly and without permits, so the fact that they even got enough material at all to make a compelling film is commendable in its own right. But does it all work? For me, not so much. But then, this isn't my kind of movie. I am definitely not the target audience here, so I can only speak about 'Hustler White' from a distance. If this is the kind of film you're into - I understand that this is held as a bit of a genre classic and it's easy to see why - you could enjoy this one. Again if you're open-minded and curious, give it a shot. If you're someone that shys away from this sort of content - don't say I didn't warn you. The box art clearly states that it contains graphic nudity and mature subject matter.
The Blu-ray: Vital Disc Stats
'Hustler White' makes its Blu-ray debut from Strand Releasing. Pressed on a BD25 disc, the disc is housed in a standard case and opens directly to the main menu.
Considering the film stock and techniques employed to film this movie, 'Hustler White' actually makes a fairly clean transition to Blu-ray with this 1.34:1 1080p transfer. Fine film grain is retained through much of the film, but considering the gorilla filming tactics to get some iconic LA shots, some scenes fair far better than others. Most of the time grain is subtle, but some scenes look caked in insect noise. Detail levels are over all very strong, but again there is some occasional softness throughout the film - but that appears to be indicative of the elements rather than any kind of issue with the transfer. Black levels equally fluctuate as some scenes appear to have been filmed without any kind of accent lighting. Considering the low budget nature of the film, things look pretty great all around and fans interested in owning this title on Blu-ray should be very happy with the results.
As with the video the DTS-HD MA 2.0 audio track is a pretty spotty affair. When filming conditions were ideal, the sound is great. When things were done on the quick, you get a lot of audio fluctuation with intermittent background ambient noise that is inconsistent shot to shot. Over all, dialogue comes through clean and there is plenty of separation from the music and sound effects. As this film was pretty rough from the get go, imaging isn't the strongest, but it is present and it does work fairly well. It's difficult to grade this aspect of the film because of the underground film techniques, so I'll say that it works for what this film is.
Bruce LaBruce Introduces Hustler White: (HD 24:12) Co-director and actor Bruce LaBruce introduces the film at the Toronto International Film Festival.
Letter To Hustler White: (SD 58:08) Bruce LaBruce and a couple friends watch the film in a pseudo video commentary track.
'Hustler White' is one of those movies that can only be considered a challenge to watch if it isn't your kind of movie or doesn't cater to your personal sensibilities. I'll be honest, this wasn't my kind of movie, but that doesn't mean I can't appreciate it for the place is holds in LGBT cinema. Made in an era when homosexuality only made its way onto most movie screens as a crude joke or in rarely seen localized arthouse festivals, this is a daring piece of movie making. If anything it should be appreciated as a place holder in how far society has moved towards accepting members of the LGBT community and what they have to offer our culture in its entirety. The fact that this film was restored and mastered for Blu-ray at all is an accomplishment in that respect. With the improved picture quality and halfway decent audio track and the couple of extras on disc, fans of the film should be happy with this release.