(1976)1.5Fred BeldinThe Monkey Hustle is a weak effort, wasting the talents of nominal star Yaphet Kotto and relegating the usually outrageous Rudy Ray Moore to a neutered, near-cameo role. The plot is a jumbled mess of minor characters whose relationships are never truly defined with motives and actions that fluctuate from scene to scene. There seems to be some footage missing, as if severely truncated to gain its PG rating, though even if a complete version existed to straighten out particular story line problems, The Monkey Hustle wouldn't be much of a movie. Unlike the same year's similar (but successful) Car Wash, the members of the large cast aren't vibrant enough to carry their own minor subplots, and some are downright unpleasant to watch. Frustrated drummer Win is a sullen, self-absorbed lout and his friends are violent, greedy, and eager to steal from their benefactors. Still, they're the closest thing to "heroes" that the film has, despite never really being involved with the plot's overriding concern (the construction of an expressway that threatens their home). The conclusion delivers a lame deus ex machina in the guise of an alderman who shows up during the climactic block party to announce that, all of a sudden, the expressway plans have been canceled; the crowd rejoices and one character declares, "Let's party right now!" The lack of nudity, foul language, and other such exploitable elements will ensure that the film never receives the cult status of more flagrant blaxploitation epics, though fans of the style won't be missing much by missing The Monkey Hustle.