Owen Gleiberman
October 25, 1991 AT 04:00 AM EDT

Whore

type
Movie
Current Status
In Season
mpaa
R
runtime
80 minutes
performer
Benjamin Mouton, Theresa Russell
director
Ken Russell
distributor
Trimark Pictures
genre
Drama, Erotic

We gave it a D

Whatever happened to standards? In the world in which I was raised, if you went to see a movie called Whore, and it was rated R (or, in this case, NC-17, which sounds even more promising), and it was directed by that veteran of highfalutin kink Ken Russell, and it starred — excuse me, but I’m going to step out of my mature, measured role as critic and make a sexist comment — someone as totally hot as Theresa Russell, well, if you went to see that movie, you could rest assured it wasn’t going to be boring. Sleazy, yes. Exploitative, pornographic, and fun, almost certainly. But boring? The very thought seems…indecent.

Whore is a sad spectacle indeed. Russell plays a veteran hooker cruising Los Angeles in her red leather, Ziploc miniskirt. Much of the time, she speaks directly into the camera, delivering earnest, you’ve-heard-it-before-on-Oprah banalities in the blaringly overstated style of a bad high school actress trying to be ”low class.” Through flashback, we learn that Russell’s pimp (Benjamin Mouton) is a vicious psycho who might have walked out of a grade-Z Hollywood thriller; that all johns are leering, pathetic cheapskates; and that what Russell really wants is a little love and acceptance.

Despite the come-on of its title, Whore isn’t a raw, tabloid exposé of life as a working girl. It is, rather, a garishly antierotic cartoon, a movie so saturated in contempt that not a moment in it feels spontaneous or true. Director Russell (no relation to his star) has a cameo as a snooty waiter, and that pretty much sums up his attitude. As a filmmaker, he turns up his nose at everybody and everything — at prostitution, at sex itself, even at his ”heroine,” who is ridiculed, repeatedly, for her gum-snapping stupidity. By the end, the movie is numb with disgust. D

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