This film would be best viewed with a Junior Mints box of hallucinogens.
Through psychedelic orgies and dark, depressing decrepitude, the story follows Joe Buck (Jon Voight) from Texas to New York City to become a “hustler.” Honestly, I thought he meant he wanted to be a dirty poker player, a cardshark. Little did I realize just how dirty he really wanted to play. For those who are not aware of Webster’s slang definition of “hustler,” Joe Buck had aspirations of becoming a prostitute. Things don’t go as planned, and Joe attempts a switch hit, selling himself to other men when the ladies are disinterested and cheating the occasional dupe out of his money. But when he meets Ratso (Dustin Hoffman), Joe learns that it’s tough to out-con a con artist. Ratso, who prefers the nickname “Rico”, is a slippery dreg of society who lives his life hiding in back alleys and scamming the more fortunate. Ratso teams up with Joe to make his “hustling” business more productive. As Joe’s manager, Ratso gets the two of them into several events full of sex, drugs, and rock and roll. Not engaging in sex, drugs, or rock and roll, myself, I found these scenes to be more disturbing than amusing or informative. Despite the consciousness-expanding adventures, life doesn’t get any better for the pair. Inflicted with an unnamed illness that is wretched to watch, Ratso’s life slowly creeps towards its end, leaving Joe alone once again.
I actually felt dirty after watching this film. And rightly so: it’s the first X-rated movie to win Best Picture. 1969 took its psycho-pharmaceuticals and solicited sex seriously.
After watching Midnight Cowboy, I needed a break. A long break. We watched this one back in May. And we’re just today moving on to Patton.