REVIEW: Hustlers

There are a few things you shouldn’t do at the cinema; you shouldn’t graze on your food loudly, like I’m sat in a safari. You shouldn’t hog the arm-rests, because – rumour has it – I have elbows too. And, most importantly…

You shouldn’t go to see a movie about Jennifer Lopez and Lili Reinhart stripping, alone, if you’re a 26-year-old male. The ticket vendor will give you questionable looks.

I usually abide to the unwritten rules of cinema etiquette but, alas, this weekend I threw caution to the latter rule and saw Hustlers – a film, which was inspired by a New York Magazine article, telling the tale of a group of street-smart strippers who band together to con their wealthy clients.

Hustlers is a thoroughly cool film from the start. Structured as a series of flashbacks, we see former-stripper, Dorothy (played by Costance Wu) speaking to a journalist about her past events, which include drugs, cons and almost manslaughter. (But then again, doesn’t every job include that? I post things on Instagram for a living, and I nearly killed seven people by lunchtime.)

Dorothy – or as she was known during her dancer-days – details how Ramona (Jennifer Lopez), the head-stripper, corralled a team of strippers to help her swindle businessmen out of their money, hence the – you guessed it – title Hustlers.

When it comes to the film’s structure, there’s not a lot wrong with it – the flashbacks fit perfectly, and they’re not used so much that you’re left confused as to what time zone you’re in. (I watched 20 years ago, and I’m still creating mind maps on my wall trying to work that film out.) The flashes to the current day are used infrequently, but just enough to help tell the story. Tonally, as well, Hustlers is a hit. Which, ironically, when the project was first announced, I assumed it was going to be a (s)hit. I mean, a movie about strippers turned con-artists starring Cardi B? If that doesn’t sound like a fake sketch in 30 Rock, I don’t know what does. Not only did Hustlers feel uber cool, with it’s power-pop, catchy anthems and neon lighting, but it felt emotional at times, as characters struggled with the loss of relatives, etc., and equally funny at others – with comedy aimed at different audiences. Riverdale fangirls can get their meme-worthy, GIFcentirc fix over Lili Reinhart’s regular vomiting during stressful situations, while Cardi B quips that her vibrator* is her significant other, for the randy sex-pests in the audience.

* I definitely don’t know what a vibrator is. It was just a lucky guess… Just in case any of my relatives are reading this review.

Recently, Hollywood’s seen it’s fair share of female remakes of male movies – such as What Men Want, Ghostbusters and Ocean’s Eight all boasting huge female casts – but, in my opinion, none of these have really achieved their aim. I’m not alluding that Hustlers is a remake of a male-led film. After all, who wants to see Steve Buscemi twirl around a pole? Me. I do. That’s who.

Hustlers is one of the few movies that has really felt genuinely empowering for women. The female characters aren’t bitchy and spend the entirety of the movie bickering with each other. Nor are they simple and flounder about like fish out of water. Each character is determined and focussed, and all set out to succeed with the belief that they can because men are too stubborn to admit they’ve been bettered by a woman. This is the exact message that the likes of the recent (and dreadful) The Hustle should have uttered. Who knew two films with such similar titles could vary so drastically in quality. To say I loved Hustlers and loathed The Hustle would be a biblical understatement.

Let’s face it, though; you’re not here to listen about how scenes transitioned and what the musical score was like, are you? When Hustlers has a cast like this, you’re only here for one reason… The sound mixing the performances. The Oscar buzz around Jennifer Lopez is certainly justified. For roughly 30 years, Jennifer has been one of the most iconic performers in the world, and she brings all of her showmanship and superstar status to the screen in an explosive display during certain scenes, and brings it all back for a subtle, beautifully nuanced level of emotion for others. It came as a shock to me too that the star of Monster-in-Law would be a strong contender for the coveted Academy Award. While I expect to see RenĂ©e Zellweger win the big award for Judy, I too predict a lot of award recognition for Constance Wu, who plays Ramona’s right-hand woman, Dorothy; a single-mother who took up stripping to support her daughter and grandmother. Constance portrays a range of emotions unlike any of the other actors in Hustlers, with great skill.

However, fortunately for Hustlers, this is a review on the overall film – which is why I awarded it with four stars. Had I have been critiquing the film’s marketing strategy, I’d introduce a negative level of stars. Anyone with eyes has seen trailer-after-trailer, poster-after-poster, all advertising the film’s stellar line-up, including Lizzo and Cardi B. In fact, the Bodak Yellow singer’s face appears on the poster before anyone else’s. And yet, combined, the two singers share roughly 0.3 seconds of screentime. I’m adamant that no-one was going to a screening of Hustlers solely to see Cardi B, but given her prolific appearances on the marketing campaigns and recent interviews, you’d expect her to be on screen for longer than a joke about masturbation. (Which was, ironically, a lot longer than masturbation itself, right? Right?!) But if you really want to see some great, empowering feminism in movies, just know that Cardi B and Lizzo’s cameos are still longer roles than any males’ in the entire movie.

Hustlers is a slick, exciting, funny, heart-breaking ride with some of the most surprisingly powerful performances for a long time. It would be an injustice to say that Jennifer Lopez’s outing as a stripper was ballsy, so… This might be one of the most vagina-y movies you’ll ever see.

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