“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.