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1 review, 7 user ratings

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Whore (1991)
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by iF Magazine

"WHORE staggers along with the strength of its convictions."
3 stars

Director Ken Russell evidently felt he was going to shock the Puritanism right out of the American public when he released WHORE in 1991 as some kind of retroactive attack on the sugar-coated success story PRETTY WOMAN.

Based on a play by David Hines, WHORE purports to take a down-and-dirty, brutally realistic look at the life of a streetwalker named Liz. About the only thing controversial about the movie’s release was its title, which rankled some people at the MPAA and prompted Russell to come up with an alternate moniker, IF YOU CAN’T SAY IT, JUST SEE IT. Despite this burst of marketing genius, WHORE still failed to make a dent in the box office.

Ken Russell’s movies always have a sense of adolescent rudeness to them, but when the veteran director is busy gushing forth torrents of hallucinogenic imagery (as in ALTERED STATES, TOMMY and LAIR OF THE WHITE WORM), the results are entertaining enough. Whether he’s suited to film a gritty look at American sexuality is another question—his previous attempt prior to WHORE was the disastrous CRIMES OF PASSION, which featured Anthony Hopkins typecast as yet another psycho stalking prostitutes with a twelve inch, sharpened steel dildo. Now THAT’s entertainment.

WHORE never reaches the lunatic heights of CRIMES OF PASSION, and it never quite convinces you that you’re watching anything real, either. Theresa Russell plays Liz as a tough-talking gal who confides directly into the camera about her life, and from the get-go we’re meant to understand that it’s no picnic with Richard Gere. Seems like every time Liz picks up a John he’s got at least one friend along for the ride (at one point she’s pulled into a car full of college frat boys for the inevitable gang-bang), and if he doesn’t he’s got some disgusting kink that she’ll have to pamper. Add to that the recurring presence of her menacing pimp Blake (Benjamin Mouton) and you’ve got the recipe for one miserable life. Even when true love appears to strike Liz and she picks up a great-looking guy in a bar and settles down, things don’t work out—she’s immediately pregnant in a run-down apartment while her boy toy works all day and philanders all night (in one memorably revolting scene he staggers home drunk and vomits into a bowl of salad Liz has prepared for him). Eventually Liz gives up her baby for adoption and returns to the streets.

If you’ve always dreamed of watching Theresa Russell lick her lips for 90 minutes, WHORE is the movie for you. Russell is notably awkward in this performance, not really getting her comic rhythms together until the final third of the film. This may be a gritty response to PRETTY WOMAN, but despite her problems and her sewer mouth Russell is just about as glamorous a prostitute as Julia Roberts, and Ken Russell shoots the entire film in gaudy, brightly lit sitcom colors. He also yanks sitcom-style, mannered performances out of his actors, who include genre fixtures like Robert O’Reilly (Klingon Gowron from STAR TREK – THE NEXT GENERATION), Charles Macaulay (Landru in the original STAR TREK’s “Return of the Archons”), and longtime David Lynch collaborator Jack Nance. Russell’s greatest stunt casting is veteran actor Antonio Fargas, who played America’s favorite pimp, Huggy Bear, on the ‘70s cop show STARSKY AND HUTCH. In WHORE Fargas is an eccentric ally who eventually comes between Liz and her pimp. Russell even casts himself (under the name “Bob Prupas”) as an unctuous Maitre’d in the film.

WHORE staggers along with the strength of its convictions and can’t help but hold your interest as Liz interacts with a revolving door of sleazy clients and gets herself in all manner of depressing circumstance. But after it’s all over you still don’t feel any closer to reality than you might after watching PRETTY WOMAN. WHORE is the dark side of that story, but it’s done with such blatant, unconvincing artifice that it still manages to whitewash the issue. -- Jeff Bond

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originally posted: 02/25/01 12:42:59
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User Comments

5/06/11 Terence A. Martell Ken Russell prostitutes Theresa Russell; raw, realistic performances from both. 4 stars
11/01/05 Jerry Theresa Russell is supberb in this realistic portryal of a prostitutes life. 4 stars
7/17/04 Shawn Teresa Russel great, movie has something....awkward 4 stars
7/16/03 Fred Brilliant stylized portrait of the art of prostitution. 5 stars
4/24/03 Megan This movie is so awful, but I couldn't help watching through to the end. Don't recommend it 2 stars
4/21/03 Jack Sommersby Disjointed and pointless. Theresa Russell, though, is always worth watching. 2 stars
3/07/03 Charles Tatum Boring Russell? 3 stars
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  04-Oct-1991 (NC-17)


  14-Aug-1992 (R)

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