Hustle ★★★★

70s Crime Month

A young girl, washed up dead on a beach, turns out to be connected to a high price lawyer. The police are satisfied with the suicide verdict delivered by the coroner, but that's not good enough for her estranged father.

Let me tell you people, there was a time, back before Burt Reynolds grew his moustache, when it seems that he actually gave a shit about the films he appeared in. Of course I know that intermittently over the years since he has done good work, but on the whole you can pretty much dismiss the work he's done since he became The Burt. But this is from that early period, when he gave a shit. And it's good.

Here he's a detective who's pretty tired of all the shit that he has to wade through. But he's not entirely jaded, he can understand the outrage of Ben Johnson's grieving father at the fact that they don't bother to cover up his dead, naked daughter, when he has to identify her body. Even so he's not going to push the case because as we're constantly told, this guy has got no juice. Time and time again someone will ask if Johnson's character is anybody and when the answer is no everyone just shrugs it off, he's a no one so his daughter is a no one, just a commodity to be used up and disposed of.

Actually the suspicion that this is a murder or there's any foul play, she's just a victim of a system which she wanted in on, she saw people with money and wanted to be a part of it. Now she's dead and no one cares because she and her family are non-entities, which is the actual crime.

And it's not only his work which has left him jaded, his girlfriend as played by Catherine Deneuve is a hooker, something which he never lets her forget, constantly digging at her, even though they have an arrangement and the only reason she's still a working girl is because he won't marry her. Personally I think he should count his lucky stars that someone like Deneuve would even give him a second glance, so he's really pushing his luck by being a passive aggressive jerk towards her.

Reynolds has such an easy way about him here, he's never less than charming, but he still has an edge to him, you can see how it was all too easy for those edges to be shaved off for him to fall into that lazy Burt persona, it was good box office and it didn't require much effort, so why should he bother trying? It's still possible to enjoy some of those later films, but this and his earlier work shows what he was capable of and how much of a pity it is that he seemed to stop caring.

But in any case that's not what's going on here. Reynolds is great with both Deneuve and his partner as played by Paul Winfield. Ben Johnson is fine when he's angry, but when he's quiet he isn't the haunted man we're told he is. And for some reason the casting of Ernest Bourgnine as Reynolds' boss feels wrong, he doesn't strike me as being the right man for the role of this desk-bound political animal. However that's a minor critisism for a cracking movie which concerns itself with being far more than just another tale of a cop investigating a suspicious death.

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