HARD LUCK – DVD review

“Luck ain’t nothin’ but karma in work clothes,” says an ex-con and small-time hood known to everyone as Lucky. That sounds like another karma-conscious bottom-feeder named Earl, but with flashier clothes and jewelry. And swagger. Like his TV counterpart, this direct-to-DVD anti-hero wants to go straight. The thing is, when you have connections like he does and everybody recognizes you as a former “playa,” that’s not the easiest thing to do.

That’s the starting point for “Hard Luck,” which stars Wesley Snipes as the main character. This Mario Van Peebles (“Baadassss!”) directed film follows Lucky as he gets roped into going to a birthday party for a mob boss he used to “play” with, and it turns out to have been a set-up involving dirty cops, dirty money, and a dirty escape. When Lucky commandeers the flashy mustang owned by one of the club’s pole dancers and drags her along for the ride, with the cash, it leads them all the way to another genre: the slasher picture.

Really, though, that’s about the only thing that’s interesting in this otherwise paint-by-numbers film that offers nothing new and nothing much that comes close to the unexpected. The thumping theme music is here, the flying bullets, the macho posturing, the stereotypic gay-in-power, mob boss, bad cops, and stooges, the stripper who’s “not easy,” and the obligatory skin shots from that pole dancer named Angela (Jackie Quinones).

What makes the film interesting is also what makes the film silly. Cybill Shepherd and James Liao play a pair of psycho lovers who get turned on mostly when they capture a woman or a couple and take her/them back to their lake retreat, where they strip them down and play games that seem like a cross between a virtual reality music video and a Nazi scientist’s experiments. “Hard Luck” is rated R for violence, sexual content, language, and aberrant behavior—the latter because of these goofy fetishists. But the interesting thing is that just when Lucky thinks his life couldn’t take a turn for the worst, he and the pole dancer end up in an isolated cabin with a broken down car just like a couple of hapless teens in a slasher picture.

“Hard Luck” has the sheen of a low-budget film, with a kind of plasticity that coats everything and an over-reliance on gimmicks like colored lights and briefly sped-up sequences. There’s not much to say about it except that you’ve seen it before at least a hundred times, if it weren’t for that kinky crossover into another genre.

How successful is the crossover? Well, I happen to think the intersection of two genres is the most interesting thing—no, check that, the only interesting thing—in the whole film. As an action film it’s not as suspenseful or action-packed as others, as a badass film there’s not nearly the cobra-deadly main guy, and as a convoluted mob caper picture it twists and turns less than your average set of small intestines. But it’s also not as clumsy or downright offensive as the worst of these films, and the double-genre thing will make it interesting for fans of either genre.

Video: It’s hard to rate the picture quality because Van Peebles uses more colored lights than a Christmas parade, which makes it difficult to determine whether he’s covering up the flaws in cheap film stock or deliberately going for an effect. At any rate, “Hard Luck” is presented in 2.35:1 anamorphic widescreen, and just as there are better pictures out there, there’s also better picture quality. Though this is mastered in High Definition, HD is only as good as the source material, and there’s plenty of grain, while in low-light shots there are noticeable ghosts. But that’s a different genre, isn’t it?

Audio: Audio options are English, Portuguese, or Spanish Dolby Digital 5.1, or (sorry, France) French Dolby Digital 2.0 Surround, which is much flatter sounding. The sound is decent, though heavy on the bass as you might expect from a film like this.

Extras: There are seven unspectacular deleted scenes along with a brief feature on Mario Van Peebles, who talks about the film as clips run. There’s no mention of why they shot in Providence, Rhode Island to make a film that has the look of L.A. in the beginning with a flight to Wisconsin lake country, which is what I wanted to know. Here too, Van Peebles covers the typical bases in an average feature.

Bottom Line: How do you transform an ultra-ordinary boy ‘n’ the hood flick into something more unique? You mix it with another genre—slasher movies. Good thing. It’s the only thing that makes “Hard Luck” interesting.