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Hustlers – Movie Review

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Hustlers – Movie Review

Rating: B (Good)

Trailer/Thumbnail Courtesy Elevation Pictures

When looking at the 2008 financial crisis, strippers seem like surprising characters to center a movie on. However, with further reflection, their popularity with Wall Street stockbrokers makes them the perfect choice to look into how the unpredictable world of the stock market came crashing down on everyone. Hustlers looks at a real-life con pulled by strippers and director/writer Lorene Scafaria is careful not to demonize them for their chosen profession. She is mostly interested in presenting them as people stuck in hard times and taking advantage of their leering clientele. The result is a high-energy caper, further strengthened by the performances of its actresses.

Scafaria is smart to give the story’s focus to Constance Wu’s Dorothy, who provides our eyes and ears into the strip club and the people who go there. Employing a Scorsese-esque narration, everything is properly laid out and we get a sense of the pressure these strippers are under. Before the plot truly kicks into high gear, we’re taken into the backstage rooms and given an idea of people who would choose to spend their time there. Scafaria never looks down on these women and sees them more as gymnasts, rather than something degrading. The employees of this strip club do feel like a family and the actresses make the relationships look real.

The financial crisis provides the needed stakes and Scafaria shows how it rocked the strippers’ world. When they start developing the con, there is an almost Ocean’s 11 energy to the way these hustles are pulled off. Wu and Jennifer Lopez have a snappy dynamic, with both showing an incredible confidence as they steal from their clientele. Scafaria’s screenplay has a fair amount of genuine comedy, relying more on the basic character interactions to create laughs. However, there is always that looming threat that everything could go crashing down on them as more strippers begin to join their operation.

A clever device utilised by Scafaria is a reporter, played by Julia Stiles, interviewing Dorothy. While it’s not the most original device, Hustlers never uses it as a crutch. These sequences instead grow Dorothy and show her properly reflecting on what led her down this road. Hustlers is adapted from a magazine article and this meta route is a good way of presenting us with the facts and also explains why the movie is told entirely from Dorothy’s point-of-view. Credit should also be given to production designer Jane Musky and director of photography Todd Banhazl for how they transport the audience to the various bars and strip clubs, but never in a sleazy way.

Hustlers succeeds as a solid crime movie, albeit one that shows a group of women trying to put their skills to good use. Even though these are essentially criminals, Lorene Scafaria does have a certain amount of sympathy for them and nicely outlines the planning that went into making these cons work. While Jennifer Lopez will surely get most of the attention, this is really Constance Wu’s movie and she creates the needed window into the story and allows us to understand why her character chose to commit the hustles. Most importantly, the movie is an entertaining romp that knows how to mix its tones.

Stefan Ellison

Stefan Ellison