Why One Major Country Has Banned Hustlers

Constance Wu and Jennifer Lopez in Hustlers

Hustlers has been both a critical and commercial success since its release a a couple of weeks ago. However, there's one country where the movie is going to fail to be either. The film censorship board of Malaysia has decided to ban Hustlers from the country for what it calls "excessively obscene content."

To be sure, the film is rated-R in this country for a reason. Hustlers follows a group of strippers as they develop a scheme to drug men and run up their credit cards, believing that nobody will ever turn them in, or even realize what has happened, because they don't want to admit they were hanging out with strippers.

With the movie being about professional strippers, it's not too difficult to imagine why a film censorship board would take an issue with Hustlers. The film contains nudity, of both the male and female variety, as well as erotic dancing, and drug use. For these reasons, the BBC reports the film has received an outright ban from the Malaysia.

There are several countries in the world that review films for content like this, and will either edit the productions or ban them entirely depending on how significant the censorship board thinks the issues are. China cut scenes from Bohemian Rhapsody. Samoa banned the Elton John biopic Rocketman. In the past, Malaysia censored scenes from Rocketman and very nearly banned the Beauty and the Beast remake due to the fact that gay content is not allowed in Malaysian cinemas.

In the case of Beauty and the Beast, Malaysia only wanted to edit the end of the film, but Disney decided not to release the film in Malaysia at all if it was going to be edited. Eventually the censorship board pulled back and allowed the unedited film to screen.

Based on the word from Hustlers international distributor, it appears the movie was truly banned, rather than this being a studio decision to not release the film with edits. Certainly, the amount of allegedly offending content is significant, and editing it all out would likely end up destroying the story as well. Too much important dialogue and plot development is happening while other "obscene" things are also going on. If "erotic dancing" is against the rules, then Jennifer Lopez's entire character introduction in Hustlers would have to be pulled, and that would end up changing quite a bit about the movie as a whole.

While it's always unfortunate to see artistic endeavors censored or banned, it's especially unfortunate when it comes to something like Hustlers because there's general agreement that this is a pretty damn good movie. There's even been talk of a potential Oscar nomination for Jennifer Lopez, and so the idea of some people not having a chance to see such a performance is upsetting.

If you live in most of the rest of the world, Hustlers is in theaters now.

Dirk Libbey
Content Producer/Theme Park Beat

CinemaBlend’s resident theme park junkie and amateur Disney historian. Armchair Imagineer. Epcot Stan. Future Club 33 Member.