The setup for Hustlers isn’t anything new. This is The Big Short meets Goodfellas meets Robin Hood meets Showgirls. But despite the lack of a fresh concept, it’s still an entertaining movie.
The story, based on a New York magazine article, follows newbie stripper Destiny (Constance Wu) at a NYC club circa 2007. She stumbles until she meets Ramona (Jennifer Lopez), the seasoned star of the club. The pro takes Destiny under her wing, teaching her how to dance and seduce the customers (without actually giving anything away). The money pours in until the stock market crashes in 2008. Everyone loses and has to start over. Cut to 2011, where a struggling Destiny, who quit dancing after becoming pregnant, reunites with Ramona. This time her mentor has a new lesson: luring, drugging, and stealing from rich Wall Street guys. It doesn’t take long before the two friends have a ring of girls scamming their way through Manhattan. Once again, the (illegal) money flows, until the shit hits the fan.
The standout in the movie is Wu. She works to make us sympathize and root for Destiny, even when she’s doing horrible things. There has been Oscar talk about JLo’s performance and I have no clue where that’s coming from. It’s not that she isn’t good. But let’s not get crazy. This is maybe a Golden Globes nominated performance. Maybe.
Director/screenwriter Lorene Scafaria injects a good deal of heart and humor amongst the flash and crime. And so many slow-motion sequences. Bonus points for costume designer Mitchell Travers’ creations. He does an incredible job of capturing the fashion of the 2000s. It’s all appropriately tacky. UGG boots and velour Juicy Couture sweat suits for everyone! The little bit of material used to barely cover JLo’s body is also impressive.
At one point, Julia Stiles’ reporter character, who has been interviewing Destiny, mentions that she doesn’t feel bad for the men that were victimized. I think a lot of audience members feel the same way. It’s not so bad when rich douchebags take a fall. It also makes for a fun time at the movies.