Hustlers has all the ingredients to be a great movie, including an impressive cast, good back story and amazing publicity. Unfortunately it has trouble with the execution, in that it doesn’t quite ever know what kind of movie it wants to be and loses track of itself along the way. It’s this one flaw that prevents it from being what it could have been.
Hustlers is inspired by the 2015 article in New York magazine entitled “The Hustlers at Scores”. It follows the story of a group of strippers who decide to turn the tables on Wall Street stock traders and CEOs who visit their club and embezzle money from them. The film stars Constance Wu as Destiny, a single woman who takes up stripping to support her family, and Jennifer Lopez as Ramona, a veteran in the industry who helps Destiny come up with a plan to help them and their friends make some money after they’ve fallen on hard times. Cardi B, Lili Reinhart, Keke Palmer, Julia Stiles and Mercedes Ruehl are also part of the cast.
There is no denying Jennifer Lopez might just be playing the role of her career in this film. She gets to show off her range as an actress, while also playing homage to what got her to the game in the first place, that being her incredible dance moves. It’s shocking that she doesn’t appear to have aged at all since she first rose to fame in the 90s’, but it’s even more shocking that we haven’t seen more of her on the big screen. She might just see nominations come her way during awards season next year. Constance Wu on the other hand is supposed to be playing the character we sympathize most with, the one we cheer for, but really her performance is rather bland and in the end you don’t find yourself caring much what happens to her at all. Her character Destiny really doesn’t seem to have much in the way of redeeming qualities either, which doesn’t help.
The biggest fault with the film is the fact that it doesn’t know what it wants to be. For the start of it you get a lesson in what it’s like to be stripper, complete with a pole dancing lesson and how to handle the customers to get the most from them, another part of it is a heist movie that shows how these strippers ripped off their clients, and throughout it all you get a strong feeling that the film wants to be a female empowerment film that shows how these women took the power from the rich men that were their customers and spread their wealth among themselves. Sort of like a female version of Robin Hood, if Robin Hood kept the money for himself. None of these elements particularly mesh well together though, and it feels like you are getting separate episodes of a TV series instead of a complete movie. The makers of the film put a very strong “wall-street men are bad” feeling on it, yet they don’t really make the men look all that bad. Stupid yes, but after the film you are asking yourself, did these men really deserve to be ripped off the way they were? Just because they had money, and liked going to strip clubs, does that mean they are bad men? If they were portrayed more like the stock brokers in the Wolf of Wall Street it would be more understandable and you would be behind the women more. But they weren’t. They were just dumb men who you feel sorry for, which makes the women ripping them off look bad.
Hustlers never really finds itself, which is sad because it has a lot of potential to be something great. It’s different than a lot of films, which is never a bad thing, but it needed to define itself more, and it needed to make us believe in the reasons why the women where doing what they were doing. In the end though it just loses itself quickly, and never really finds its way.
By: Roderick Thedorff