By Stina Chyn | February 17, 2004

The Boss (Charlie Bodt) has the last word in Ethan Minsker’s film “The Soft Hustle,” but the film isn’t exactly about him. Set in and around New York City’s East Village, “The Soft Hustle” is a medley of characters, primarily The Businessman (Omar Rojer), The Artist (Colin Burns), and The Florist (Jimmy Drago) aka the Bartender. The first third of the film focuses on The Businessman and his attempts to pull together $1,000 he lost on a boxing bet. The second third is about The Artist, who sells his paintings as a last resort to earn some fast cash. The final third revolves around The Florist and his struggles to juggle three girlfriends. Each of these characters, as well as the people with whom they interact, know each other and hang around the same bar, where the Florist works. The Boss greatly affects their lives, but from a narrative standpoint the film is more about them.

The film isn’t about much else, though. Aside from a shot of The Florist and one of his girlfriends reading Machiavelli’s ‘The Prince’ on a rooftop, there are no indications that Minsker cares to incorporate intellectual banter or grand discussions on the human condition. There are humorously written scenes which are brought to life with the help of the actors’ facial expressions, body language, and line delivery style. The Businessman in particular will make you laugh without trying. Just watch him say “what? Come on!” and you’ll see what I mean. “The Soft Hustle” is funny, but it’s likely that Minsker was aiming to do more than make you laugh uncontrollably.

Speaking of the actors, they don’t play characters that you’ll necessarily like, and sometimes you can tell they’re actively trying to remember their lines, but they’re still pretty entertaining overall. Thus, it’s not the story or the characters, but how the film is put together that makes “The Soft Hustle” disappointing. For example, there’s a poorly executed transition where The Businessman walks into the camera. Ordinarily, when a character walks into a camera and then the next scene begins in a fade-out from black, it actually looks like the camera is plunging into and out of the person. Minsker has yet to master this technique. “The Soft Hustle” is just that—a soft hustle. A lot more work and effort goes in than comes out again.

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