Film Review – The Hustle (2019)

In these risk-averse days, a remake can look like a safe bet. It’s not always the case, and the prospect of a three-make has even more potential pitfalls. Who remembers the 1964 comedy, Bedtime Story, starring David Niven and Marlon Brando as rival con-men on the French Riviera? No? Well, how about its remake, Dirty Rotten Scoundrels, released in 1988 with Michael Caine and Steve Martin taking the same roles and in the same setting? Classics they may not have been, but good comedies they certainly were. So do we need a third one?

Whether we do or not, we’ve got one, this time the female-centric The Hustle, with Anne Hathaway and Rebel Wilson as the two con-artists happily aiming to relieve anybody gullible enough of their wealth. And, as they’re yet again on the French Riviera, there’s plenty of victims to choose from. It’s much the same storyline as before. The pair are chalk and cheese: Hathaway smooth and sophisticated, Wilson less refined but no less successful at what she does. But the Riviera isn’t big enough for both of them, so they challenge each other to lighten one young man’s bank balance to the tune of $500,000: the winner stays and the loser has to leave town.

So far, so pretty much as before, except that the scammers are women. But anybody who’s seen either or both of the earlier films will know full well that the woman in the story came out on top. All of which makes this version even more pointless, especially when it’s such a blatant attempt to cash in on the current trend for female orientated movies. And, as a comedy with precious few laughs, it fails at the first hurdle. Apart from the occasional giggle, there’s little to amuse: the gags fall flat and most of the attempts at physical humour poke fun at Wilson’s shape, making them tasteless as well as deeply unfunny. The storyline follows that of the previous two as well, but is just a dumbed down version, leaving the actors stranded in perhaps the most ill-conceived film of 2019 so far.

Anne Hathaway’s involvement in the project is a worry. Somewhere along the line she seems to have lost the knack of choosing roles worthy of her talents. Serenity a few months back is a classic example and this is even worse. She has little to do, apart from attempt an English accent and give people cold, hard stares, with her comedy chops never getting a look-in. Rebel Wilson is …. well, Rebel Wilson, and nothing more. There’s no sense of chemistry between the two, only the feeling that, like the con-artists they play, they took the money and ran. Fast. In fact, the only member of the cast who appears to be having any fun is Nicholas Woodeson, who plays Hathaway’s butler. He has a grand total of two lines in the film. That’s probably why.

The Hustle marks the directing debut of British comedy actor, Chris Addison. He’s one of a growing number of actors venturing behind the camera but this is a year which includes first features from the likes of Jonah Hill (Mid 90s), Olivia Wilde (Booksmart) and Amy Poehler (Wine Country). The bar’s been set high and this doesn’t come close to it. Even the ending of the movie is a “so what?” The post- credits scene simply isn’t worth waiting for. Nor is the film.

Freda Cooper |[rating=1]

Comedy | Cert: 12A | UK, 10 May (2019) | Universal Pictures | Dir. Chris Addison | Anne Hathaway, Rebel Wilson, Ingrid Oliver, Alex Sharp, Dean Norris, Nicholas Woodeson.

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