As the end credits for this film rolled, I said to my viewing companion, "It's films like this that remind you what utter crap most of the big-name pictures that the majors churn out these days are." Even if one of the big-studio execs had the guts to green-light a project like MR. SMITH GETS A HUSTLER, the star casting, phony gloss, cookie-cutter direction and inevitable contrived ending would have ruined it. This gritty little movie lacks all of those "attributes," I'm happy to say, and is all the better for it.
MR. SMITH is not for those with, shall we say, delicate sensibilities. It is not a docu-drama on the world of male hustlers or a study of the psyches of its denizens, and the reality of the lives of those who rent their bodies out in the Big Apple is irrelevant to the plot. Matthew Swan's script establishes a shadowy world on the fringes of what we call "society," and tells, in a simple but compelling manner, the story of how a particular set of circumstances impacts the lives of a half-dozen of its inhabitants.
The characters are complex and credible, as are the top-notch performances of all those portraying them, from the central ones (Alex Feldman as hustler Bobby and Larry Pine as the mysterious client Mr. Smith) to the peripherals (such as Jodie Baker as Sheila). Special praise is deserved by J.D. Williams as Abe, a "colleague" of Bobby's who finds himself in over his head.
Ian McCrudden's direction is spare in style and rich in character development, and the rough-edged production design and cinematography suit the story perfectly.
If you saw HARD EIGHT and liked it, give MR. SMITH a shot. I stumbled across this one, and I'm very glad I did.