You would think that a direct-to-video movie about sex trafficking with a mostly Italian cast and an unknown director wouldn’t be Oscar-worthy, and you’d be right. You might think that such a movie with prominently billed B-movie names like Michael Madsen and Danny Trejo would at least be enjoyable trash, but you’d be wrong. “Hope Lost” features all of the above, but it’s a hopelessly lost cause as either quality or camp.
There’s not much of a plot to “Hope Lost.” An incredibly naïve but attractive Eastern European woman (Francesca Agostini) accepts a ride to Rome with a slimeball who tells her he wants to cast her in a reality TV series. She soon finds out just how real things are when the “producer” sells her to pimp Michael Madsen, who puts her to work. Agostini spends most of her time in one particular vacant lot where she and the other hookers hang around waiting for guys to pick them up. The rest of the film is a series of increasingly degrading and depressing encounters, culminating when Agostini is cast in a snuff film.
As serious drama, “Hope Lost” is extremely lacking. The main actors are relatively inexperienced and amateurish, the storyline and editing are confusing, and the production values are virtually non-existent. The bulk of the movie looks as if it was filmed on about four sets that I’m guessing were either the aforementioned vacant lot or abandoned buildings. While the production is definitely third-rate, the filmmakers evidently had loftier goals. As one character says in the first scene, one of the golden rules of cinema is that before inevitable doom, there must always be a scene of hope. Apparently, the four credited screenwriters (three of whom don’t have any other credits) thought that they were writing an epic tragedy. However, the script is so muddled that the “scenes of hope” come across as irritating excuses to pad the movie’s slim running time.
Those expecting a campy sex-and-terror-porn work of the Eli Roth variety will also be disappointed. Considering the subject matter, “Hope Lost” has little nudity, and the violence, although quite sadistic at times, is usually implied rather than shown. The only real entertainment value in “Hope Lost” is the result of the work of the better-known actors. Michael Madsen sleepwalks his way through his sleazeball role the same way he usually does, but he actually manages several funny line deliveries. Similarly, Danny Trejo, playing an enforcer who keeps an eye on the hookers when they’re out hustling, has a few good lines. He also has one good scene in which he gets to kick the stuffing out of a couple of johns who are unwilling to pay up. Mischa Barton is also on hand as a more experienced streetwalker who gives Agostini some survival tips, but her appearance merely shows how far down the Hollywood totem pole she has fallen.
I actually thought going in that “Hope Lost” might wind up being a good trash film, but it’s merely a dreary, depressing one. And, by depressing, I don’t mean in the way that a good tearjerker affects the audience. Instead, I felt the same as if I had been making my way through a landfill for 90 minutes, except that a landfill excursion would have had a better storyline. Any hopes that I had for “Hope Lost” were lost well before the closing credits.