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Film Review: Hustlers

Based on an article written for The New Yorker magazine, Hustlers tells the incredible story of a group of ambitious pole dancers that decide that there is a lot more money to be made from their clients, and they don’t mind what they have to do to get it. The ensemble cast of characters led by the mighty Jennifer Lopez, slowly slide deeper and deeper into a world of hustling admittedly dodgy patrons out of their hard earned credit limits, but we all know that this sort of thing never ends well.

To be honest with you, it was Mrs reviewer that really wanted to catch this movie on opening weekend. I was a little more hesitant as the trailer pretty much told me the whole story, and it all seemed a little too glamorous for my taste. On top of all that, early reviews seemed poor, so expectations were not high. However, Hustlers is a better film than you think it is, and despite the obvious conclusion, it cracks along at a good pace and is incredibly entertaining.

First of all, the cast including Jennifer Lopez, Cardi B, Constance Wu and Julia Stiles are all very good. J Lo is impressively convincing as the mum of the group, teaching the new girls the ropes and coming up with the scheme that pays dividends to all involved. Lopez excels in the mentor role, she has screen presence, and the right mixture of maternal best friend and dangerous enemy, still retaining an edge when required. There’s also the scene where J Lo takes to the pole and shows her prowess on the apparatus, and her strength and control is admirable. Knowing a little about the core stability required to perform those moves, I reckon she must have trained for months to make that stuff look easy.

HUSTLERS, from left: Jennifer Lopez, Constance Wu, 2019. © STX Entertainment / courtesy Everett Collection

The whole film is told in flashback and covers the initial years of the lap dancing club entertaining the high rollers of the stock market in the early 2000’s, to the pivotal market crash in 2008, and the fall out for all concerned afterwards. We see club patrons, that were all probably extras in The Wolf of Wall street, being “fished” by our band of merry women, from local bars, and lured in a drug infused haze, to the ladies place of work where they max out expense accounts and credit cards to the tune of thousands of dollars a night while the poor saps lie in an unconscious stupor. The marks are carefully picked, expensive shoes and watches are the first things they look for, then of course a wedding ring.

It’s a classic hustle, and the script and direction has us rooting for the ladies, even though they are essentially drugging, kidnapping and robbing their victims. The director Lorene Scafario endears us effortlessly to the characters, and of course the performances help us empathize too, just as well, as the subject matter when broken down is shocking and really unjustifiable. The humour works well though to help us digest the scheme, and despite the bad behaviour the audience is asked to sympathise and relate to the actions of the cast without judgement. In the third act we meet the first male character that isn’t a stereotype, and as the plans start to fall apart, we reach the only real conclusion that the narrative can have.

Hustlers is an entertaining crime thriller that has some nice stylish direction when required, and a great cast capable of working well with the material. Its not getting great reviews elsewhere, but if this kind of story grabs your interest then there’s probably a lot you will enjoy here. Despite what The New York Post reviewer said about checking her watch half way through, if you go along knowing what the subject matter is about, the I reckon this is a good night at the movies.