Monday, May 5, 2014

DVD Review: Sean Weathers' Scumbag Hustler

Text by Richard Gary / Indie Horror Films, 2014
Images from the Internet




Scumbag Hustler
Directed by Sean Weathers and Issa Assad
Full Circle Filmworks
67 minutes, 2014

From the opening scene, while Solomon Crow (playing by co-director Sean Weathers) rolls his eyes and gnashes his jaw in a way that is reminiscent of Horace B. Carpenter in 1934’s Maniac, the audience is aware that this is a guy with issues. His two biggest problems are his full blown hard drug addiction, and the search for funds to pay for it.

Sean Weathers as Solomon
The storyline is more often episodic than narrative, which is appropriate since most junkies live from fix to fix (as Lou Reed put it in “Waitin’ For My Man”: “Until tomorrow, but that’s just some other time”).  We follow Solomon as he scams one person after another out of any money he can.  There is always a level of (literal) sweat soaking his body as he twitches and does that desperate quick thinking needed when a revealing question is asked by either a mark, a love – no, make that sex – interest, or a relative.

In some scenes, Solomon comes across as a bit cartoonish (such as some Miley-type tongue action or rotating jaw, but the desperation remains palpable throughout. He’s a hard guy to pity, and Weather’s rarely takes the softer road (hence the film title), but having known junkies in my time, it’s not far off from what I’ve seen in real life. However, he is also obviously a willing victim to his own demons.

While drugs and money are hard to come by for Solomon, for some reason sex is not. Now, junkies I’ve known have had problems performing in the bedroom arena, but not so our anti-hero. Woman after woman succumbs to Solomon’s – er – charms, and fall into the sack, which we see in semi-graphic detail from both the partners and Weathers (anyone who has seen a Weathers release in the past couple of years has also seen numerous parts of his sculpted body, though I have never seen a more buff druggie).  If Weathers is to be considered an auteur (and I believe that is accurate), this is especially true in these scenes, which look like the same one with different usually big busted or big butted babes (mouth on nipple? Check. Ass slap? Check. Head? Check. Doggy style? Check. Her on top? Check).Even being drug-free, I wish I had as much bedroom energy as this guy does, not to mention luck – well, for the last part, when I was single, anyway.

Waliek Crandall
Solomon will sleep with anyone (including those close to him), rip off multitudes (such as his dealer), and help the degradation of those who care about him, such as his uber-religious brother, Tyler. The latter is played well by Waliek Crandall, part of the Weathers recurring troupe, playing a role similar to the one in The Trade Off (2013). He is an excellent foil for Weathers, and they play off each other well.

Most of the female actors on display here are willing to drop more clothing than talent, especially a large (fake-looking) breasted Latina who is supposedly Solomon’s ex-, though they of course knock some boots. She can’t do a line reading, but has a bosom that won’t quit. However, there is one female breakout actor who has the cutes and talent to actually rise above, named Sybelle Silverphoenix, playing Tyler’s wife, Tamia. She has a decent C.V. on IMDB, and it’s not surprising.

Sybelle Silverphoenix
Tamia is tired of Tyler’s lack of interest when she’s burning up (apparently no sex until they want to have kids, because that’s what the Bible apparently says), so she slowly falls under the spell of Solomon’s lusts and addictions. Her slow tumble is painful to watch (i.e., well handled by Weathers and Issa), and you know it’s gonna turn out bad for everyone.

The one fault of the film is that Solomon seems unredeemable, and except for an occasional beat-down by someone he ripped off, there is no real comeuppance (or, as I could phrase it, “sequel”).  

Watching Solomon’s varied scams on people is one of the more fun parts. It’s also a hello! to anyone who encounters someone pulling these stings. Weathers is imaginative in his use of ways for Solomon to find the funds for the next needle, and you just know that every one of these is a real hustle used by people every day. People are generally either kind or greedy, and Solomon plays on these to trick people out of their hard earned (assumingly) bucks.  

Weathers is a decent writer and continually improves in developing characters.  Yes, I would love a bit more history of Solomon and what makes him tick, but that could just be the White liberal in me.  He uses his genre knowledge to create a world full of suspicious characters and victims who are both pure and as dirty as his protagonist.  By combining Blaxploitation, sexploitation (sometimes overlapping subgenres), and noir, he gets to create something new that has the feel of Cotton Comes to Harlem (1970) meets Panic in Needle Park (1971), mixing both the gritty and the occasional humor.

Another character Weathers uses quite effectively is the locations. With guerilla filmmaking (in other words, handheld camera), he uses his home turf of Brooklyn (Bushwick, and the like) and Manhattan (especially the Lower East Side, such as Delancey and Essex) to his advantage, showing the crumbling infrastructure to reflect the mind and life of Solomon. His use of direct sound rather than overdubs in these instances has shown a marked improvement over time.

Even with the occasional clich├ęs (“Crack is wack”) and redundancies (“Check to see if you have more money in your [wallet] [purse]”), there is enough originality that flows through the script to keep it interesting. Weathers and Issa make a good team, and as time goes on, I hope they will find their niche actors, such as SilverPhoenix and Crandall, or Chrystal Claire, one of Solomon’s marks, who can be relied upon for more than just boobs and butts.  What I’m talking about is evident in the hilarious final credits, where some of the actor names are listed, and some are just not even bothered with, referring to them as “future pornstar,” “that other guy,” and the like.

A Weathers film may/can be an acquired taste, but it’s worth the journey to get there. The more of his films you see, the more you get a complete picture of what he’s trying to accomplish and admire that. But even as a single slice, this film is worth a view. Meanwhile, check out Weather’s podcast interviews with the likes of Hershell Gordon Lewis and Dustin Wayde Mills at his Facebook site listed above.

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