Hustlers, Pawn Shop Chronicles (2013)
Directed by: Wayne Kramer
Written by: Adam Minarovich
Starring: Ashlee Simpson, Brendan Frasier, Elijah Wood, Kevin Rankin, Lucas Haas, Matt Dillon, Norman Reedus, Paul Walker, Thomas Jane, Vincent D'Onofrio
HUSTLERS (2013) aka Pawn Shop Chronicles
Directed by Wayne Kramer
HUSTLERS centres around a day’s trading at Alton’s (Vincent D’Onofrio) General Lee’s Pawn Shop in America’s Deep South. Here we meet a variety of customers who’s lives end up crossing in three short stories within the film.
The first story, THE SHOTGUN, sees young man Vernon (Lucas Haas) pawn his shotgun for some car fuel money so he can meet his white supremacist friends Raw Dog (Paul Walker) and Randy (Kevin Rankin), who intend on robbing their meth-dealer Stanley (Norman Reedus). The only problem is, Vernon has sold their only weapon, so what are they going to rob him with now?
In the second story, THE RING, a newly wedded couple swing by the pawn shop on their way to Orlando, only for the husband Richard (Matt Dillon) to spot a unique looking ring under the pawn shop’s glass counter. The ring has such a profound effect on him, that he ends up suspending his honeymoon to go investigating into his past.
Finally, Elvis impersonator Ricky (Brendan Frasier) is down on his luck when he visits the pawn shop in THE MEDALLION. Not only is he penniless but his girlfriend Theresa (Ashlee Simpson) dumps him at the local diner. He’s forced to pawn his beloved gold medallion, that once belonged to The King, in order to make it to his big show at the county fair. Unfortunately for Ricky, it won’t all be plain-sailing.
HUSTLERS is an enjoyable, quirky black comedy that succeeds so well due to its unusual stories and the stellar cast that star in this anthology. The late Paul Walker gives one of his final film performances as Raw Dog, a white supremacist-cum-Neo-Nazi who’s so high on meth, he can’t stop hallucinating. Not to mention, he doesn’t even know why he’s a racist. With his smarter friend Randy, they both intend to hunt down a new weapon to rob meth dealer Stanley with but that in itself isn’t an easy task. Paul Walker is unrecognisible as his character Raw Dog. He puts in a hell of a performance, mostly providing the wit and humour, particularly in the latter end of their story.
The film, with its intertwining stories, is quite an adventure to take. There’s shocks that will surprise, comedy that will have you grinning from ear to ear and scenes of depravity that will disturb you to the core. The ability to have you laughing one minute and in brutal shock the next makes this one of the quirkiest films I’ve seen in a while which may not appeal to everyone. I certainly enjoyed it, particularly due to the big name supporting cast who really get involved with these stories and inhabit their characters completely. If the cast mentioned above isn’t enough, Elijah Wood and Thomas Jane also star.
When watching HUSTLERS, it became evident that there was a running theme throughout of ‘opposites’. Running the pawn shop is Alton and Johnson, who are white and black guys respectively. The most noticeable of opposite themes is that of good and evil, whilst other opposites can be seen such as dumb and clever, little and large, success and failure and rich and poor. This emphasis on opposites adds an extra layer to the film, especially when you start to notice and second-guess what is about to happen. In a way, I found it like The League of Gentlemen Series 3, in that every segment was wrapped up in a certain fashion, and although it was slightly obvious at times what would happen next, it didn’t deter from the enjoyment.
I wouldn’t say HUSTLERS is a film that would warrant repeat viewings, but it certainly is an entertaining blast of a film for fans of cinema, particularly with it being such a star studded affair. HUSTLERS is probably best served on a Saturday evening with a cold beer in one hand and a slice of pizza in the other.