review for Whore on AllMovie

Whore (1991)
by Derek Armstrong review

Ken Russell invited plenty of ill will upon Whore with its in-your-face title and so-gritty-it's-downright-bleak approach. The world's oldest profession has typically been prettied up for the cinema (the "whore with the heart of gold" being one of its oldest archetypes), but Russell bucks that trend with such belligerence that it's nothing more than off-putting. Theresa Russell's dehumanization is so unyielding that the performance quickly becomes a caricature. She tussles with pimps, johns, and cops, she spouts disinterested dirty talk while rolling her eyes during intercourse. Ken Russell spends so much of the movie cramming home his message, and his agenda becomes abundantly clear so quickly, it's the viewer who's likeliest to become disinterested in no time at all. In some ways it's an update of Russell's equally polarizing Crimes of Passion (1984), which provided a pretty dingy glimpse into this world in its own right. Apparently convinced he wasn't hardcore enough back then, Russell strips even more soul from his characters for this go-around. The viewer gets backed into a corner in which all he or she feels is the contempt, none of the sympathy that might naturally arise from a true documentary, rather than a maverick attempt at ruthless fiction filmmaking that emulates the documentary form. By the end, the viewer just wants to cleanse the pallet and clean the VCR heads, but from feeling sullied, not shaken or moved.