Adapting a New York magazine article that went viral in 2015, Lorene Scafaria’s Hustlers flips the genders in an outrageously entertaining crime thriller and skew-eyed look at exploitative capitalism.
A boisterous denunciation of the traditionally male-dominated spheres of finance and white collar crime; Hustlers also presents a sympathetic, nuanced look at the world of stripping rolled into a consistently funny crime caper.
Unfolding in flashback, aspiring stripper Destiny (Constance Wu) recounts her ascent to success in New York’s late-night entertainment scene to journalist Elizabeth (Julia Stiles), along with the crescendo of crime and misfortune that followed.
Beginning a job in a New York strip club in the care-free days of 2007, Destiny struggles to attract clients and, after being shaken down for money by the club’s male employees, takes home little in the way of cash. Her fortunes take a turn for the better, though, when she meets star stripper Ramona (Jennifer Lopez). Ramona teaches her the subtleties of the profession and in no time the pair are making a killing from the hordes of moneyed Wall Street miscreants who treat them like shit but throw wads of cash around nonetheless.
Life is good until the financial crisis of 2008 dries up the flow of rich investment bankers and the remaining customers increasingly demand sex from club staff. With their world changing for the worse, Destiny, Ramona and hit upon a wheeze of drugging unsuspecting businessmen, dragging them into their club, then rinsing them dry.
It occasionally drags along with the odd too-long moment of sisterly love, shopping sprees, Christmas present bonanzas and cava. But it’s gang of desperate forced criminals feel like relatable, lived-in and real. There are no attempts to canonise the women as saints, but neither does this polemic against the worst kind of expresses paint them as deviants themselves. Among all the hideousness and illegality on show the movie unambiguously paints them primarily as victims and the least unpleasant of those on show.
Chris Banks |
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Crime, Thriller, Drama | 15 | USA ,2019 | 13 September (2019) | STX International | Dir. Lorene Scafaria | Constance Wu, Jennifer Lopez, Julia Stiles, Keke Palmer, Lili Reinhart, Lizzo, Cardi B.