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Hustlers Review | Escape to the Movies


So, uh, fellas? This weekend, when she says “Hey, let’s
go see an empowering feminist character study directed by a woman starring and Jennifer Lopez and Constance Wu?” …say yes. Alright, so Hustlers more or less sets out
to be The Goodfellas of stripper movies; both in terms of it’s style, based-on-a-true-story
format, true-crime “you won’t believe we did this shit… but we did this shit”
storyline and frequent deployment of slow-motion steadicam tracking shot montage set
to popular music. That’s a pretty goddamn big swing, and while
it doesn’t exactly hit that particular backboard (because nothing is Goodfellas) that it gets
close to its own outsized ambitions is impressive all on it’s own: A sexy, compelling, funny,
nuanced, dramatic, touching and often unexpectedly thoughtful movie of the moment that marks
another big win for Constance Wu, a career turning point for writer/director and co-producer
Lorene Scafaria and a serious dramatic comeback for Jennifer Lopez. Inspired by a 2015 New Yorker magazine profile
from Jessica Pressler and starting off in mid-2005, the film stars Wu as a hardworking
single woman struggling to connect as an exotic dancer in New York City who meets an forms
an immediately strong platonic (or… maybe more?) fixation and soon mentor-slash-best-friendship
with the club’s enigmatic top dancer played by Jennifer Lopez as Ramona; who gives her a
crash course in not only dancing and and acrobatics but also the psychological warfare of
hustling big money from the club’s scheming upscale Wall Street clientel. But when the 2008 financial crisis plunges
the nation into economic chaos and replaces the girls’ regular Wall Street customers
with sexually-coercive, low-spending creeps; Ramona hatches a new more profitable but also
more desperate plan: Drugging rich guys with “harmless” memory-wiping cocktails, emptying
their bank accounts and counting on them to just assume they overspent while partying with strippers and not report it for that reason… and while this works; what starts as fast-fix turns
into a hard-to-quit full-fledged criminal “business empire” that grows wildly beyond
their control and ambition, souring the relationship between Ramona and Wu’s Dorothy aka “Destiny”…
…and speeding toward an ending that will surprise anyone who didn’t read the article
or see Goodfellas. Or Casino. Or The Wolf of Wall Street. Or just Wall Street. The Big Short. Boiler Room. Margin Call. Breaking Bad. Claws. Boardwalk Empire. You get the idea: Act I times are tough, Act
II times are less tough throw the money happy songs, record-scratch, sad-song, Act III,
“Oh no I thought I’d get away with what every single other person who didn’t get away thought they’d get away with and didn’t but hey have you ever noticed that it’s the system that
really get’s away with stuff makes you think?” But the thing is, just like with underdog sports
teams winning and Nazis losing wars and Avengers assembling and… ya’ know, there not technically
being rules against certain animals playing sports; the reason they keep telling this
story is because it’s a good story and it speaks to people – and in this case it’s
speaking from a place we haven’t really heard before. Yes, we’ve seen working-class and female-centric
takes on the self-made criminal protagonist biopic plenty of times, but the specific concept
of exotic dancers and/or sex workers who deceive money from clients are typically played with condescending judgmental moralism as characters are concerned either as weaponized tools of other criminals or as
unfeeling psychopaths incapable of engendering sympathy as opposed to nuanced, three-dimensional
human beings capable of good and evil depths. Ya’ know it’s a victim for Jame Bond to save or a honey trap we’re not suppose to like, but not really ever a person. But, here that’s exactly what they are. They have hopes, dreams, things they want to do. Lopez is the one who gets to play the bigger
spectrum of that, since we’re seeing her mainly at extremes as this larger-than-life
figure of either menace or angelic grace as viewed by Wu’s more centric narrator; whose fixation
on her wavers throughout the duration of the film on the knife’s edge between the romantic
and the parasocial without ever fully tipping over into something outright sexual (although…
their double-entendre strewn first conversation following J-Lo’s all-time jaw-dropper of
a character introduction scene is a master class in eyebrow-raising “what did she just
say that?”, kind of dialogue). You’ll see what I mean. Now look, Hustlers is not exactly super-deep or
mold-shattering, but it’s a really damn good piece of filmmaking that would still be solid
even if it were only half as good as it was – the best reminder in years of why Jennifer
Lopez (who’s all but certainly looking at a Best Supporting Actress nomination off this, I think)
became a movie star in the first place and why Constance Wu is going to be one. 8 out of 10, don’t miss this one.

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Comments
  • Oh, Jennifer LOPEZ. I thought you meant Jennifer Lawerence. She’s still alive? I thought like, South Park killed her or something.

  • Wow that's really surprising, no pun intended this material couldn't easily go down south of handed poorly, nice to see something that's both familiar and unique.
    Thanks for the recommend Bob.

  • Man, who would have thought that the 2008 Financial Crisis which bankrupt so many people would be such a money maker for so many people in the film industry today…

  • Loved the review! Def. plan on seeing this now. (Also, Lili Reinhart looks like the late Brittany Murphy at some angles in this trailer, and it's making me miss the former).

  • Constance Wu is by all accounts a terrible person to work with and people like that don't tend to get very far because they end up burning all their bridges. She basically shat all over her Fresh Off the Boat colleagues when she complained about it getting renewed because she just wanted it to get cancelled and she also demanded a bigger salary than J Lo and threw a fit over it.

  • I saw the Hustlers ad for the first time on YouTube some time ago – I'm almost certainly the target demo – and I rolled my eyes so much they almost fell out of my goddamn head. I was sure it was some music video party time trash. I've come to expect pandering bullshit. Then an ad on the radio listed off a bunch of the reviews and I was like, "You gotta be kidding."

    What does this make, Jennifer Lopez's second good movie? I don't know, I stopped at Selena.

  • I really, really disliked the opening "joke". It really soured the rest of the video, and made it not sound genuine when you ended with the praise for showing an unique femenist angle on a known story.

  • Why does that picture of a Gorilla playing Baseball look so familiar? I…just have this feeling that I've seen the movie its from before. Weird.

  • Okay here's what I don't understand. From the first trailer I saw up to this review everybody seems to be talking about how it's empowering for these women to be scamming men. I don't get it. How is it empowering for a woman to use her body to steal money from Men? How is it empowering for women to literally and deliberately drug men to steal their money? How is theft empowering? Is it no better than groveling or any other snarky, underhanded, submissive manner of making money? You could maybe suggest that if these women were committing some kind of heist or other scam that required their minds more than just their ability to be pretty and use that against horny alpha male douchebags that at the very least it would be complicated enough to imply agency on a woman's behalf. But from everything I've seen this is just a larger and more lucrative version of getting everything you want cuz you're pretty and you're only really valuable asset is your ability to be desired by men and to capitalize on that. And any additional agency you have is underhanded and sneaky and requires chemically manufactured consent from those in power already to give you a minor amount of power yourself. It just doesn't suggest to me empowerment of women. It's almost like a celebration of the very opposite of empowerment of women, that being pretty and playing into male power fantasies long enough to make a man vulnerable to steal his money is somehow empowering to women.

  • You really shouldn't watch the movie guys, it's sexist, it's shit, it's INSANELY toxic feminist and just genuinely don't support anything with Cardi B.

  • Uh oh, bob used the word “feminist” again. Here comes the angry little boys who don’t actually know what that word means and the internet told them to be threatened by it.

    I saw this film a few hours ago. It was fantastic. I’d strongly recommend it.

  • I am sad to see no mention of Lili Reonhart who once again proves like she did on riverdale that she can act and honestly has a very very bright future ahead of her.

  • Anyone else not a fan of the 'lost signal' bit? I guess I'm only just bothered by it enough to post a comment about it I guess, but it doesn't really work for me. Good review as always though!

  • I've seen this kind of story before way too many times I don't need to see it again, and I don't think "now with strippers" is a good enough twist on the formula. I'm skipping it.

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