Hustle (1975): Aldrich’s Neo-Noir Crime, Starring Burt Reynolds and Catherine Deneuve.

Robert Aldrich directed Hustle, a neo-noir crime film, starring Burt Reynolds and Catherine Deneuve.


Theatrical release poster

This was the second teaming of Aldrich and Reynolds (after The Longest Yard), for which they formed their own company, Roburt. The original title was City of Angels, which was then changed to Home Free.

When a woman’s corpse is discovered on the beach, Los Angeles Police Department detectives Phil Gaines (Reynolds) and Louis Belgrave (Paul Winfield) are assigned to the homicide investigation. The case appears to be a suicide, but the trail leads back to Leo Sellers, a wealthy and corrupt attorney.

Gaines and Belgrave do not believe Gloria’s death to be a suicide, based on information from Nicole (Deneuve), Gaines’ girlfriend who’s a call girl.

Meanwhile, Marty, Gloria’s father and a vet of the Korean War, learns that Sellers was responsible for his daughter’s death.

Gaines stages it to look like self-defense, letting Marty off the hook for the crime. Gaines calls Nicole to reconcile, and they plan a trip to San Francisco. On his way to the airport, he stops in a convenience store and walks into an armed robbery. He trades fire with the assailant but is killed in the exchange.

Belgrave goes to the airport to inform Nicole, and upon seeing him she realizes what had happened.

The attempt to bring back the tradition of movies based on Raymond Chandler-Dashiell Hammett detective novels is less successful, because the movie is too self-conscious in ambition and manipulative in execution.

While maintaining his signature tone of cynicism, in this picture, Aldrich favors characterization rather than plot; he’s not concerned much with the resolution of the crime.  The movie reflected the urban decay of big American cities in the 1970s.

Assigning the major roles to a duo composed of a white and black man was a step in the right direction and began a new trend in cop movies.

Burt Reynolds – Lieutenant Phil Gaines
Catherine Deneuve – Nicole Britton
Ben Johnson – Marty Hollinger
Paul Winfield – Sergeant Louis Belgrave
Eileen Brennan – Paula Hollinger
Eddie Albert – Leo Sellers
Ernest Borgnine – Santuro
Colleen Brennan – Gloria Hollinger
Catherine Bach – Peggy Summers
Jack Carter – Herbie Dalitz
Robert Englund – Hold-up Man


Directed by Robert Aldrich
Produced by Robert Aldrich
Written by Steve Shagan
Music by Frank De Vol
Cinematography Joseph Biroc
Edited by Michael Luciano
Distributed by Paramount Pictures

Release date: December 25, 1975

Running time: 120 minutes
Budget $3 million
Box office about $10 million (rentals)