Whore

  • 1991
  • Movie
  • NC-17
  • Drama

A stage piece that has been shoddily refashioned for the screen, Ken Russell's WHORE is a major disappointment from an idiosyncratic filmmaker who usually leaves viewers' jaws dropping in astonishment at his outrageousness. Here, one's mouth opens only to yawn. On the lam from her brutal pimp Blake (Benjamin Mouton), Liz (Theresa Russell), a seedy hooker,...read more

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A stage piece that has been shoddily refashioned for the screen, Ken Russell's WHORE is a major disappointment from an idiosyncratic filmmaker who usually leaves viewers' jaws dropping in astonishment at his outrageousness. Here, one's mouth opens only to yawn.

On the lam from her brutal pimp Blake (Benjamin Mouton), Liz (Theresa Russell), a seedy hooker, guides the audience through a Cook's tour of her love-for-sale existence. A hard-working streetwalker, she bares her body and soul while speaking directly to the camera. Among the adventures recounted

are her budding friendship with a bag person named Rasta (Antonio Fargas); a nasty contretemps with Blake, who expects her to turn enough tricks to make up for time lost during her "vacation" from him; and assorted sordid encounters with johns. In flashbacks, related in Liz's scabrous vernacular,

we learn how a bad marriage to Bill (Jason Saucier) led her to a career of not-so-easy money, how she was driven to have her child adopted after her mother passed away, and why her favorite client was a perverted senior citizen who fancied six whacks with his cane.

Undereducated and devoid of self-confidence, Liz does enjoy a friendship with a bright, beautiful lesbian, Katie (Elizabeth Morehead), but Blake the pimp decides this is bad for his business and ends their relationship through force. Then it's back to pounding the pavement and putting out in

public men's rooms. When one of her customers (Jered Barclay) drops dead due to Liz's ministrations, Blake pops up and rolls the dead man and robs Liz. Furious with her independent streak, he decides to teach her a fatal lesson. Serendipitously, Rasta appears and rids her of the meddlesome pimp

forever. Into the dark alleyways of the neon jungle, Liz disappears.

Despite the rampant profanity and the graphic descriptions of kinkiness, WHORE is not a cheap turn-on. Even on that basic level, it's a failure; it certainly doesn't offer any insight into the angst of sex merchants. What a letdown from a director who gave us the divinely decadent LAIR OF THE

WHITE WORM and cinema's first dirty-joke tragedy, CRIMES OF PASSION. Given the overall shallowness of the material, one can only shake one's head at how little director Ken Russell does to mold the film's subject matter cinematically. When Russell finally aims for something approaching

inventiveness (the cross-cutting sequence between vengeful pimp and distraught whore), he runs the device into the ground. Scenes which should build with operatic intensity peter out. In fact, nothing in the material itself or in the director's handling of it has any emotional torque.

This brings us to the problem of Theresa Russell. With her monotonous voice, her inexpressive face, and her penchant for resorting to shortness of breath to suggest panic, Russell never captures the emotional bankruptcy of the world's oldest profession. She only suggests the discomfort of an

embarrassed actress who realizes she's out of her depth. Racing through key dialogue or whining through allegedly heart-rending revelations, she flails about in search of a character to play. All she finds are scattered emotions and poses to strike, but what actress could redeem this superficial

expose of the hooker's life? If ever a performer was cruelly abandoned by her director and left to flounder alone onscreen, it is Theresa Russell. (Excessive violence, excessive profanity, adult situations, nudity.)

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  • Released: 1991
  • Rating: NC-17
  • Review: A stage piece that has been shoddily refashioned for the screen, Ken Russell's WHORE is a major disappointment from an idiosyncratic filmmaker who usually leaves viewers' jaws dropping in astonishment at his outrageousness. Here, one's mouth opens only to… (more)

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