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Nasty, nihilistic neo-noir. 3 Stars

Robert Aldrich’s somewhat muddled neo-noir character piece Hustle benefits from a strong cast headed by Burt Reynolds and Catherine Deneuve and a director who knows his way around noir.

Hustle (1975)
Released: 25 Dec 1975
Rated: R
Runtime: 120 min
Director: Robert Aldrich
Genre: Crime, Drama, Mystery
Cast: Burt Reynolds, Catherine Deneuve, Ben Johnson
Writer(s): Steve Shagan
Plot: At the instigation of a grieving father, a Los Angeles cop investigates the suspicious circumstances of a girl's apparent suicide.
IMDB rating: 6.2
MetaScore: 77

Disc Information
Studio: Paramount
Distributed By: Kino Lorber
Video Resolution: 1080P/AVC
Aspect Ratio: 1.85:1
Audio: English 2.0 DTS-HDMA
Subtitles: English SDH
Rating: R
Run Time: 2 Hr.
Package Includes: Blu-ray
Case Type: keep case
Disc Type: BD50 (dual layer)
Region: A
Release Date: 05/16/2023
MSRP: $29.95

The Production: 3/5

After the smashing critical and commercial success of The Longest Yard, there was little surprise when director Robert Aldrich and star Burt Reynolds reteamed for their next project. Hustle, a nasty, nihilistic neo-noir, didn’t prove to be the smash of their earlier film together, but this winding, fractured crime tale has a few things going for it: a terrific cast from its stars to its bit players (some of whom would go on to be big stars in their own right in the years to come), a gritty glimpse of Los Angeles in the mid-70s, and some surprises on the Chinatown level that many won’t see coming.

When the body of teenager Gloria Hollinger (Sharon Kelly) is discovered on the beach, detectives Phil Gaines (Burt Reynolds) and Louis Belgrave (Paul Winfield) are stymied when the coroner declares her a drug overdose suicide, thus closing the cover on her case. Her grieving father Marty Hollinger (Ben Johnson), while being estranged from his daughter when her hard-partying ways led her to leave home, wants answers and is determined to get them despite running into various unsavory characters his daughter had connections with and getting roughed up along the way. The detectives’ boss Santoro (Ernest Borgnine) is aware that one of Gloria’s connections was to noted L.A. lawyer and mob fixer Leo Sellers (Eddie Albert) and cautions his detectives to steer clear of him, but Phil’s live-in lover, call girl Nicole Britton (Catherine Deneuve), is also tied to Sellers, a fact that Phil not only is aware of but is growing increasingly angry about.

Steve Shagan’s screenplay emphasizes the city as a place of haves and have-nots with the cops caught in the middle, some rolling with the punches and others fighting the system looking for justice and finding the decks stacked against them pretty frustratingly. Director Robert Aldrich’s fractured directing style likewise keeps the film’s momentum off kilter with lots of expository love scenes between the two beautiful stars (and one loo-loo of a spat which comes uncomfortably as close to rape as it’s possible to play) and occasional sequences with the detectives doing other, unrelated police work to the initial case (one of two action scenes in the movie features the kind of kinetic procedural thrill that might have been injected into the movie to give it some life and an escape from its tonal doldrums). While the film is more of a character piece than a crime movie (perhaps partially explaining why it wasn’t the big hit most were expecting), it does feature an ending most won’t see coming, a punch in the gut that will catch most sentimentalists decidedly unawares.

Burt Reynolds (without his mustache in this one) and Catherine Deneuve are unquestionably two of the beautiful people who struggle throughout the movie with reconciling their feelings with what each does for a living. The focus is far more on Reynolds as the detective who tempers his fury in most instances but which shockingly explodes on particular occasions. Deneuve does what she can with an underwritten and fairly uninteresting role as a high-class prostitute, but it’s clear the screenwriter and director are interested in social and political corruptions that don’t involve her profession. Paul Winfield is an able and supportive partner, but he, too, is not fleshed out in much detail in the screenplay. More interesting are the performances of the dead girl’s two parents played heartbreakingly by Ben Johnson and Eileen Brennan, both crushed to their souls by their loss but one looking for answers and the other fearful of what that information might mean for their survival. Eddie Albert, who had made a superb antagonist in Aldrich and Reynolds’ previous The Longest Yard, here plays the slick, smooth attorney unruffled by pressure or accusations, confident that his wealth and power can supersede any petty problems of his underlings. Ernest Borgnine is okay as the police captain who knows the score. But there is a wealth of great supporting players (and familiar faces) doing one and two-scene roles: Jack Carter as a sleazy strip club owner, David Spielberg as nutty serial killer Jerry Bellamy and Naomi Stevens as his hostage, Don ‘Red’ Barry as a bartender, Fred Willard as a police interrogator, and Robert Englund as a bandit.

Video: 4.5/5

3D Rating: NA

The film’s original theatrical aspect ratio of 1.85:1 is faithfully rendered in 1080p using the AVC codec. Taken from a new 4K scan of the original camera negative, the image is very detailed with rich, solid hues and a very film-like look. Around the 40-minute mark, two shots, however, appear to be zoomed resulting in increased grain, brazen color, and out-of-kilter framing before the picture goes back to normal. Has the film always looked this way? The movie has been divided into 8 chapters.

Audio: 5/5

The DTS-HD Master Audio 2.0 mono sound mix has the audio design of many movies from the 1970s. Dialogue has been well-recorded and has been mixed with Frank De Vol’s spare score (and some songs of the era including “Yesterday When I Was Young” and the theme from A Man and a Woman) and the sound effects to make a strong central track. There are no problems with age-related hiss, crackle, pops, or flutter.

Special Features: 3/5

Audio Commentary: film historians and Robert Aldrich experts Alain Silver and James Ursini provide an interesting and thought-provoking discussion of the film.

Theatrical Trailer (3:14, HD)

TV Spot Ads (3:46, HD): seven ads in a montage

Kino Trailers: Fuzz, Shamus, White Lightning, The Longest Yard, Gator.

Overall: 3/5

Robert Aldrich’s somewhat muddled neo-noir character piece Hustle benefits from a strong cast headed by Burt Reynolds and Catherine Deneuve and a director who knows his way around noir even with a script that seems a bit unfocused and one not offering an action-hungry public what it most craved.

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Published by

Matt Hough


View thread (6 replies)


Stunt Coordinator
Jan 24, 2023
Real Name
Joseph Barrett
I saw Hustle opening night, it was sold out and the audience was upset by the finale. I loved the film then and have waited for the film to appear on Blu-ray. The film made a mint over the first weekend, word of the ending got out and the movie quietly died. I think the film is far superior to the Longest Yard ( a very commercial film that pulls all of the audiences strings). I felt the casting of the two leads was wonderful as I had been following Ms. Deneuve's career since the 60's. She got 500K a film and wanted to be in Octopussy. She got her agent to call Cubby Broccoli and told her agent she would cut her price in half (250K). Cubby was adamant and responded that he only paid his lead women 80K. She refused. Anyway glad to have Hustle which has been delayed from last week to late June. I got a notice it would arrive last Thursday and then it was delayed and out of stock everywhere. Don't you love the fact that films that were bombs are the toughest to get and more people want them than you know.

Brian Dauth

Sep 13, 2019
Real Name
Brian Dauth
I think the film is far superior to the Longest Yard
Agreed. From the opening following the car across Los Angeles, one has the feeling that Aldrich is reporting on L.A./America in the very moment of his making the film.

I look at Aldrich's 70's movies as second swings at genres where had already made classics. HUSTLE is KISS ME DEADLY marinated in 20 years of experience, reflection, and growing despair.