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Film Review: Hustlers

“This City, This Whole Country, Is A Strip Club. You’ve Got People Tossing The Money, And People Doing The Dance…”

Based on the 2015 New York magazine article, “The Hustlers at Scores”, by American journalist, Jessica Pressler, Hustlers is the latest from the superbly named New Jersey filmmaker, Lorene Scafaria, who returns to cinemas in a directorial sense after the successful one-two of the 2012 Steve Carell staring, Seeking a Friend for the End of the World and the 2015 comedy drama, The Meddler. Featuring a particularly starry, female-led ensemble cast, Scafaria’s latest primarily follows Constance Wu’s (Crazy Rich Asians) Dorothy over the course of nearly a decade as her career as a stripper leads her into the path of Jennifer Lopez’s (Out of Sight) Ramona, a powerful and streetwise matriarch who soon teams up with her fellow strippers in order to rip off high profile clients in response to the economical effect of the 2008 Financial Crisis. Less The Big Short and more a spicy blend of Showgirls meets Ocean’s Eleven, just without the R-rated extremism of the former, Hustlers is a thoroughly engaging and brilliantly acted original crime drama, one which benefits from a tight, well-judged runtime and an element of spicy exoticism which most mainstream pictures would be too afraid to touch let alone actually produce.

With a central narrative which feels comfortable remaining within the confines of reality and seemingly sticks close to the real life events, such a decision both benefits and hinders Scafaria’s movie, one which shifts along an elongated, year jumping time frame with relative sharpness and ease, due in part to some Scorsese-esque storytelling, cut-throat editing techniques and key characters which manage to be both well-rounded, charismatic and engaging. Central to the film’s success is undoubtedly Lopez who in her career best performance manages to evoke a wide range of characteristics, traits which develop her character from the savvy, sexy titan of the stripping industry to a relentless, greed-inflicted criminal, one who is determined to return the pain of the financial crisis on those who she believes is responsible. With Constance Wu continuing her excellent leading form after her success with Crazy Rich Asians and the movie having a fundamentally likeable sensibility, the only real downfall of the picture is how forgettable the central plot device actually is, with the inevitable outcome predictable and therefore lacking any sort of gut-punching memorability, but where the movie lacks in any sense of grandiose it more than makes up for in terms of style and for a movie which clocks in at just under two hours, Hustlers is well worth your time.

Overall Score: 7/10

Film Review: Jason Bourne

“I Know Who I Am. I Remember Everything…”

After a long and winding nine years since the release of the last “pure” Bourne movie, the one-two success duo of director Paul Greengrass and Matt Damon have once again returned with Jason Bourne, a return to the life of the amnesia stricken black ops operative, who once again is brought back into the spotlight after agreeing to help Julia Stiles’ Nicky Parsons in her attempt to leak the entirety of the CIA’s black ops programme to the public after turning against her former employees. After the success of the original trilogy, the question remains whether returning the character of Jason Bourne to the big screen was particularly needed and whilst Greengrass’s latest is indeed a popcorn ridden action blockbuster with some incredibly well designed set pieces, the familiarity and cliched nature of the plot detracts the quality of the film as a whole and prevents it from being as impressive as its’ predecessors.

Nine years on since The Bourne Ultimatum, Bourne has become an outsider, hiding in the dregs of society and earning a living through illegal fighting rings when he is located by former CIA and Treadstone operative Nicky Parsons who speaks of her desire to not only leak confidential information onto the web but to help Jason in his attempts to understand his decision to join the Treadstone program in the first place. Add into the account Tommy Lee Jones’ aged and disgruntled CIA director Robert Dewey, Alicia Vikander’s Heather Lee, a rookie Cyber Ops agent who is brought in to help bring down Bourne and Vincent Cassel’s Blackbriar/Treadstone operative, The Asset, and Jason Bourne covers all the players you would expect from what we have seen in the franchise so far, with Jones clearly filling in the role of Brian Cox from the original trilogy, whilst Vikander and Cassel are simply the latest incarnations of Pamela Landy and The Professor from Supremacy and Identity respectively.

Where the film succeeds is in its’ spectacular thrills, ranging from a glorious chase scene through the heart of an austerity demonstration within a destruction-filled Athens, to a climactic final act in Vegas, Jason Bourne only continues and emphasises the meticulous nature of Greengrass’s ability in directing set pieces, with the famous “shakey-cam” making reappearing in order to give Jason Bourne that Greengrass touch. If it’s plot and originality you seek then the original trilogy will serve you nicely, yet if thrills and stunning action sequences is what you desire in the warm confines of the British summer then Jason Bourne is for you, and although it isn’t the masterpiece many would have hoped for, it’s still a thrilling enough movie to give credence to the notion of bringing back Bourne in the first place.

Overall Score: 8/10