Inspired by real life events of a group of strippers who during the crash embark on a spree of mass drugging and larceny of their male clients. Constance Wu plays ‘Destiny’ a down on her luck girl who must work endlessly to pay her bills and look after her grandmother. When Ramona played by Jennifer Lopez takes her under her wing they concoct a scheme to rob sleazy bankers of money. In a nut shell that’s the entire movie. It is primarily set in the sordid confines of a strip club called ‘Moves’ where every male character, bar one perhaps (maybe, at a stretch), are depicted as degenerate scumbags ripe for manipulation by these female ‘hustlers’ who despite working hard are treated abysmally by the system. But that doesn’t entirely ring true.
Framed as a type of female ‘Robin hood’ stealing from the rich, ‘Hustlers’ is an odd choice for critics to tout as empowering to women. With Robin hood stealing from the rich to give to the poor you at least got the sense that his actions where for the benefit of all which showed a moral compass of sorts. In this the ladies are hardly morally right desperately playing out one con after the next to feed a need for material wealth.
The movie has a very rinse and repeat formula. Once you’ve seen one ‘hustle’ you’ve seen them all. Despite some nice photography there is a sense of over glamorising something that isn’t all that glamorous. It’s gritty and dirty, a chance to be a voyeur in the detritus. Adding a touch of ‘Goodfellas’ copying to the mix that feels a slight reach too far.
Constance Wu’s acting was a little weak especially the start of the movie. She just didn’t seem comfortable in the role as stripper. The fast cut editing and sloppy dialogue did her no favours either.
In the simplest terms It’s a female friendship movie that we have seen countless times before wrapped loosely in a heist aesthetic. To say its complex isn’t accurate, I would say the characters are very one dimensional. We never really get to know Ramona. Destiny played by Wu fairs a little better but it’s still all surface. We have a climax that feels somewhat anticlimactic. It was missing that bite that it very much needed. An ending that warranted the the two hour run time. But we don’t get that, the movie drips to a lazy conclusion. In the end I was confused about what movie critics actually watched. It seems like they we’re more interested in progressing some political agenda than actually critiquing the movie. The same could be said about the filmmakers themselves. Which is a shame as story and character should be king.
The hustlers are depicted as glamorous almost enticing, something you should aspire to and never really treated in a negative light. There are shades of grey but these are mostly discarded in favour of a view of positivity and supposed female power. At the end of the day they we’re con artists and thieves definitely no better than the bankers they stole from yet the filmmakers want you to love them - their actions were abhorrent; perhaps even willing to kill for one more chance to make it rain under the guise of feminism and revenge. This revelation is treated so lightly for fear you may actually start to hate these women. It would have been far braver of the filmmakers to cast them in a negative light then you would have had balance. As it stands there is no balance, instead they are shown positively. Two wrongs apparently make a right in this skewed version of the world. ‘Man hating’ in vogue now as the new form of feminism.
In the end there was no tension each ‘con’ the same as the last - treated lightly in montage for fear the audience may ask moralistic questions of the protagonists. They did a bad deed, were caught: the end. What could have been tension driven ended flat and disjointed.
When all is said and done ‘Hustlers’ isn’t a good movie.
** out of *****