Hustlers is one of those films that seems to have “pricked” a nerve. (Hee hee)
On one Hand (! The makers seem to have bent over backwards!) to make their film based on the New York Magazine article as fair as possible, but of course controversy has been aroused anyway. With allegations that the film portrays sex workers in an unflattering light, specifically as criminals. Knowing the kind of malignant bilge the the U.S can produce, I went to this film with some trepidation. Happily I was pleasantly surprised; with the sex workers guild have very thin skins or I have a comfortably thick one.
In any event this retired veteran was not offended, instead, I revisited a few long-vanished friends (or their stereotyped acted equivalents anyway). There is the altruistically minded girl who is working the industry only to earn enough to keep her grandmother alive, not to mention feeding her cute child because the “straight” job market is (as always) nastily rigged against people who actually need a job. The choice for those in dire straits is, as always, crime or sex work. In my experience, this means that most, but by no means all, sex workers are honest decent people interested in doing only what they have to do (no matter how distasteful) to keep up their side of the employment contract. On the other hand, while working I have seen disgruntled workers steal and cheat and as a customer I have been robbed and cheated. (One of each – once in Sydney, once in London). Having done the work myself, I found it hard to hold a grudge.
“Hustlers” is a bit vanilla, the characters are not out-and-out prostitutes (or should that be ‘In-and- out’ prostitutes?) Instead they are strippers and lap and pole dancers, but of course for Bible Belt USA these girls (and this film are the sexist double standard personified. Each and every girl is pure US porn -industry sex droid, siliconed and plasticised to the point of inhumanity; It is to the actor’s credit that their ability brings their personalities to the fore, making the “real” people as opposed to cookie-cut tits-& ass paraded and jiggled for our delectation, before our hypocritical censure and contrition. “Hustlers” makes great use of its stars; pole dancing crotch shots abound and the last frame is pure black with stark white text listing the length of the prison sentence doled out to one woman. Itsdifficult to understand when it seems to me that a fairer sentence would have been a spanking for the male “victim”- although that is very likely to be another ugly double standard creeping its way out of the subconscious. “Hustlers is a good, thought-provoking film about a minefield of knee-jerk reactions. It handles itself adroitly and with moments of real panache. Recommended.

(C) Copyright Alex Rieneck 2019 All Rights Reserved

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