HUSTLE (director: Robert Aldrich; screenwriter: Steve Shagan; cinematographer: Joseph Biroc; editor: Michael Luciano; music: Frank DeVol; cast: Burt Reynolds (Lt. Phil Gaines), Catherine Deneuve (Nicole Britton), Paul Winfield (Sgt. Louis Belgrave), Ben Johnson (Marty Hollinger), Eileen Brennan (Paula Hollinger), Eddie Albert (Leo Sellers), Ernest Borgnine (Santoro), Catherine Bach (Peggy Summers), Jack Carter (Herbie Dalitz); Runtime: 120; MPAA Rating: R; producer: Robert Aldrich; Paramount; 1975)
“Burt is credible as the disillusioned cop who feels ashamed that he’s pimping for a corrupt system.”
Reviewed by Dennis Schwartz
Robert Aldrich’s (“Attack!”/”Kiss Me Deadly”/”Legend of Lylah Clare”) right on the money contemporary film noir looks at a corrupt LA police force and a debased society that tolerates killers, druggies, pimps and whores. Burt Reynolds is the dreamy-eyed but cynical Lt. Phil Gaines, a film buff who is yearning for the pure world he imagines from the 1930s flicks. The emotionally drained homicide detective whose French girlfriend Nicole Britton (Catherine Deneuve) is a high-class prostitute, tries to erase from his mind what she does for a living. He wants to believe he has found a similar ideal romance as in one of those French films he likes such as “A Man and A Woman.”
When the body of a 20-year-old druggie call-girl Gloria Hollinger washes up on the beach, the coroner’s office calls it suicide due to a self-treated drug overdose. Marty Hollinger (Ben Johnson), the girl’s father, a Korean War veteran who suffers from shellshock, becomes overly distraught that the investigating police, Phil and his African-American partner Sgt. Louis Belgrave (Paul Winfield), consider his family such “nobodies” that they treat this case with insensitivity not even calling for a full investigation–something a privileged vic’s family with a high-priced lawyer would have demanded and received.
Phil opens the case again, though still convinced it was just a suicide, when a photograph is found on Gloria showing her in the company of notable but corrupt attorney Leo Sellers (Eddie Albert). The lawyer is a client of Nicole’s and made it possible for her to get a visa to the States. Confronting Leo about his relationship with Gloria, the lawyer acknowledges he knew her but had no reason to kill her.
A crazed Marty goes off on his investigation alone, and receives a beating from the goons after questioning personnel at the mob-controlled strip-tease club where Gloria worked. Mrs Holliger (Eileen Brennan) tells Phil about this beating and explains that Gloria ran away from home when daddy’s girl caught mom in the arms of another man. Phil, who divorced when he found his wife cheating on him, feels sympathetic with Marty’s plight and goes out of his way to show him proof that his daughter was no angel and made pornographic films besides being a hooker. But this only enrages Marty further and he goes gunning for Leo, convinced the cops are just trying to sweep the crime under the rug. Since Leo is innocent of this crime, the vigilante father becomes the problem that must be resolved.
Burt is credible as the disillusioned cop who feels ashamed that he’s pimping for a corrupt system. He lectures Marty on the impossibility of escaping the country’s urban moral corruption: “Don’t you know what country you live in? Can’t you smell the bananas? You live in Guatemala with color television.” Phil risks his career to help Marty because he identifies with him because they are both nobodies, have been betrayed by their wives, their country and are inflicted with the same moral outrage about a modern world they no longer understand. Though Phil’s rage takes an introspective turn, while Marty’s takes on a need for physical revenge.
REVIEWED ON 11/27/2004 GRADE: B
Dennis Schwartz: “Ozus’ World Movie Reviews”
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