TRICKS is a feminist midlife crisis foray imbued with harsh truths about sexism and ageism. Having much more impact than exploitative adventures in hookerdom like WHORE (1991), this evocative woman's film is equal parts soap opera, revenge pic, and show biz tragedy.
Now too old to strut her stuff onstage, former Vegas showgirl Jackie Simpson (Mimi Rogers) barely makes ends meet as a salesclerk in a Reno boutique. In order to provide for her sickly child, Jackie turns tricks at a casino hotel in an arrangement with hotel bell captain Tommy (Ron Halder). One
night, Tommy sets her up with a sadist, who unbeknownst to her, is a Reno power broker named Henry Rinaldi (Kevin McNulty). After humiliating her, Rinaldi gets his kicks by viciously beating Jackie. Befriended by a cabbie, Adam (Callum Keith Rennie), who drives her to a doctor, Jackie bounces back
only to learn she cannot find employment anywhere in town.
Her roommate Sarah (Tyne Daly) introduces her to retired leg-breaker Big Sam (Ray Walston), but Jackie doesn't know the identity of her assailant. Using information from Big Sam about Tommy's illegal gambling activities, she blackmails him into revealing Rinaldi's identity. But because Rinaldi is
one of Reno's major concessionaires, Big Sam is afraid to help her. Tipped off by Tommy, Rinaldi threatens to harm Jackie's young son. Armed with a pistol, Jackie stalks and terrorizes Rinaldi at his mansion, but cannot sink to murdering him. Bidding adieu to Adam and to Sarah (who moves in with
Big Sam), Jackie renounces the past and moves on to a quieter life as a computer programmer in Texas.
This update of old Constance Bennett/Kay Francis weepies that once flooded the 1930s is refreshingly uncompromising. Without turning its back entirely on those whore-with-the-heart-of-gold cliches, TRICKS remains clear-eyed about the realities of the skin trade. Admittedly, the film veers into
misplaced adorableness with the Golden Ager romance of Big Sam and Sarah, and stacks the deck by saddling Jackie's child with poor health. But TRICKS never ducks the ugly nature of Jackie's part-time job. In an incredibly nasty scene, Tommy and a hotel official argue about what to do with the
battered woman, as if she were roadkill to be disposed of. Despite the melodramatic denouement, TRICKS succeeds in exposing the indignities women like Jackie must endure. As the dethroned Vegas showgirl, Rogers brilliantly conveys a character whose self-esteem is wholly linked to a fading allure,
a woman who can't see her options clearly after staring too many years into a spotlight. It's a subtle turn in a sober-minded movie about life after 30 in a culture that worships the young. (Violence, nudity, extreme profanity, sexual situations.)
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- Released: 1997
- Rating: R
- Review: TRICKS is a feminist midlife crisis foray imbued with harsh truths about sexism and ageism. Having much more impact than exploitative adventures in hookerdom like WHORE (1991), this evocative woman's film is equal parts soap opera, revenge pic, and show bi… (more)