Hustler White, a campy, throwback-style piece of queer cinema with nods to earlier art films, manages to defy most common genres. It is not quite an art film, not quite a comedy, and not quite an action movie.
Starring a cast largely comprised of real former hustlers and male models, the film centers around the events leading up to the death of male prostitute Monti Ward. These events include action sequences and several rather graphic sex scenes, including a controversial amputee scene.
While this movie has an overall tongue-in-cheek feel to it, it also manages to be quite humorous at moments throughout. It feels like a satire of classic cinema, and many have described it as such, but the funniest moments for me involved the pushing back against audience expectations. I found myself laughing aloud at certain lines in this film centering around the sex scenes because they were so outrageous, yet also clichéd. It is as if LaBruce and Castro wanted to put the stereotypes surrounding gay sex work in the viewer’s face while simultaneously creating complex, nuanced characters. This makes it a film of juxtaposition- the clichéd with the complex, classic cinema style with sex work in Santa Monica.
The question that this film raises is of target audience. While fans of queer cinema hail this movie for its diverse cast list and push against social norms, it is also often criticized for its objectification of African American men in the sex scenes. This may alienate some queer cinema fans. Moreover, it has been described as art, yet its campiness keeps those looking for high art away.
I’m not really sure what to do with this film, or entirely where it fits in with other queer cinema, but it manages to subvert expectations at every turn. If you have a free evening and an empty house, crack open a tall one and be prepared to be entertained and perplexed.
Hustler White / 1996 / 2015 Strand Releasing/ 79 Minutes / http://strandreleasing.com/