'This One's for the Ladies': Film Review

Courtesy of Neon
Probably a good thing it's not in 3D.
6/7/2019

Gene Graham's documentary profiles a group of mostly male African-American exotic dancers and their ardent fans.

The title of Gene Graham's documentary, although catchy, seems rather sexist. After all, there will be plenty of men who will enjoy watching the bumping and grinding of the central figures in his film about a group of male African-American strippers and their devoted fans. Representing a real-life, grittier variation on Magic Mike, This One's for the Ladies should actually benefit from what would normally be a box office-inhibiting NC-17 rating.

Not that the rating is justified, mind you. There's no violence in the film, save for the occasional engorged male appendage being whipped across an audience member's face (more on that later). There's no sex, except of the highly athletic, simulated kind. And there's no violence at all, although admittedly the male dancers and their female fans do get quite rowdy.

The doc centers on a group of male strippers dubbed The Nasty Boyz, who perform their highly energetic shows at weekly potluck parties in Newark, New Jersey, attended by women who seem to make the event a habit. The performers, not surprisingly, boast exotic names on the order of Mr. Capable, Young Rider, Fever, Satan and twins Tygar and Raw Dawg. Blaze, a lesbian, is the sole female member of the group.

More surprisingly, the fans have street monikers as well, or at least they do for the purpose of this documentary. Among the devoted regulars are two best friends who call themselves Double Trouble: Poundcake, a happily married mother of four whose husband has no problem with her ardent appreciation of Blaze; and C-Pudding, a regular churchgoer whose favorite dancer, ironically, is Satan.

The sole white frequent attendee is Michelle, a speech pathologist who organized an autism charity event featuring the Nasty Boyz as the featured act. She's only attracted to black men, which is something her father still has trouble fully accepting.

As you might expect, the film features copious footage of the exotic dancers strutting their stuff. It's an understatement to say that they're all highly impressive physical specimens (any male viewers who don't feel guilty about not going to the gym immediately afterward are probably hopeless causes). To a man (and in the case of Blaze, a woman), they demonstrate an enthusiasm for their work that can only be admired. It's also understandable, considering the frenzied reactions they garner for their athletic and very touchy-feely routines that go way beyond what is generally allowed by female exotic dancers.

The doc includes interviews with most of the principal figures, as well as several family members of the performers, including one young woman who proudly asserts, "Raw Dawg is my father and it's OK by me!" Not all of the dancers' fans are down with everything that goes on during the shows. "One of the things that annoy me are guys slapping their dicks on a girl's face," Michelle comments. She adds, "And don't stand in front of me and tell me I need to tip you because this is hard work."

Unfortunately, This One's for the Ladies is stronger on flash than substance. The interviews with the exotic dancers about their motivations, which are mostly financial, rarely prove particularly deep or illuminating, although there is an interesting segment in which Tygar and Raw Dawg revisit the now-closed housing projects in which they grew up. And the personal stories of the fans, although sometimes touching, feel familiar. Toward the end, the doc attempts to up the socio-political stakes with discussions about police shootings, drugs and poverty that, while certainly important, feel out of place.

Most problematically, the film is simply atrocious on a technical level, featuring subpar cinematography (a generous term, in this case) and muddy sound that wouldn't pass muster on anything larger than a cellphone screen. If you 're going to put all of those magnificent bodies on display, we should at least be able to see them clearly.

Production company: Determined Pictures
Distributor: Super Ltd.
Director-editor: Gene Graham
Producer: Paul Rowley
Executive producers: Gene Graham, Shine Louise Houston, Dan O'Meara, Tom Quinn, Chris Stoia
Director of photography: Paul Rowley
Composer: Eliot Krimsky

Rated NC-17, 83 minutes