Hard Scrambled is one of those movies that could be lumped into the same class as such films as Rounders and Glengarry Glen Ross. It tells the story of Bruisin' Benno (Kurtwood Smith). This man defines the term "hard luck guy," yet he has lots of smarts and seems to spend the movie coyly waiting to play his hand. Like any good player, he doesn't step in and reveal what he has, he merely tries to clean up people's messes so that it's in line with what is good for him. After Alice (Beth Grant) has an accident in the diner where all the main characters work, it becomes apparent to Scotty (Eyal Podell) that things in the restaurant might be changing sooner rather than later. Suddenly, it looks like the diner might be going bye-bye, especially when the moronic Joe (Richard Edson) swoops in to buy the place. What ensues is a game of cat and mouse where, eventually, more than the final proprietor of this establishment will be revealed.
As times it felt like Hard Scrambled was trying to be a little too cool for its britches, but I respect the fact that writer/director David Scott Hay knows what he's doing. His dialogue isn't laced with pop culture references that were bold when they were shot, but then got a little long in the tooth as the post production process for this movie played its course. I was very much reminded of Mamet in certain rhetorical aspects of the dialogue, but unlike Mamet, I always felt like Hay knew where he wanted the conversations to go. Rarely did he seem to let things linger, but he still seemed to keep the actors and the words they were omitting loose. Also, this is a very simple story and due to budget limitations, this film remains 90% of the time inside the diner. Hay doesn't use slick camera moves but I still never thought this place felt claustrophobic. I guess my viewing experience was trying to figure out how Benno was going to work everything out. Where things get complicated is in this movie's denouement because of all our characters interesting relationships.
All in all, I think that a film like Hard Scrambled would have gotten distribution theatrically about 10 years ago. It is a sad state of affairs that the independent film world has been co-opted to the point that it is as genre/star-centric as the very industry it was trying to get away from. I also think that it's interesting that this movie emanates out of Creative Screenwriting Magazine. While I do enjoy reading it, I sadly feel that it sometimes confuses writers more than it helps them. In fact, I am wondering what the writers and producers of Hard Scrambled would have thought of this script if they didn't have a hand in its creation; if it simply came in cold. That however is a discussion for another place and time.
Filled with interesting characterizations, strong writing, solid dialogue and very well crafted performances, Hard Scrambled is a tightly woven film that doesn't mind taking its time telling us its story. This DVD release can be purchased from Amazon and comes with a multitude of Special Features so that users get an in-depth look at how a project like this can be pulled off.