REVIEW: ‘Hustlers’ is a flashy, fun crime story

Hustlin’ aint easy, but the main characters in this flick sure seemed good at it.

“Hustlers” follows the character Destiny (Constance Wu), a woman trying to make a living in New York City by working at a gentlemen’s club. On top of making a living for herself, she’s also working to support her grandmother. While she’s making some money with the job, she doesn’t hit her stride until she meets Ramona (Jennifer Lopez), who acts as a sort of mentor.

Things appear to be going well with more money coming in. However, the film is set around 2008 and as many may remember, Wall Street tanked and pulled the rest of the world economy down with it. In the ensuing years, with more financial strains, Destiny decides to join Ramona in a scheme of getting wealthy wall street clients drunk and then over-charging their credit cards.

“Hustlers” is told through flashbacks by way of a framing device where Destiny is being interviewed by a reporter named Elizabeth (Julia Stiles), who’s working on a story about the scam. While this may lead an audience to have some clue over how things turn out for the main character in the end, the story of how the scam was set up is intriguing and the film is so entertaining that one can still thoroughly enjoy it.

While the film is a crime drama, it is certainly not a slow burn. The film’s pace is quick and snappy, hooking viewers in fast and holding the attention thanks to the twists and turns in the story. The fast pace is also beneficial in getting the point across of just how quickly the main characters’ wealth rose.

However, despite having a fast pace, it doesn’t mean “Hustlers” speeds by character development. Among all the swag and glamour that the lead characters achieve, there’s also time to portray them as human. They’re characters with an important level of depth.

Courtesy STXFilms.

Behind Ramona’s wealth of confidence are years of experience in making a living in the Big Apple and she makes for an interesting character to follow. Destiny, meanwhile, is somewhat naive, but also has a spine and is quick-witted.

These character traits are well presented by the lead actresses here. Lopez knocks it out of the park with one of her best performances in a while. Wu, as usual, is also very strong, balancing both the aspects of struggling through a hard life and carrying a lot of emotional weight while also being a strong person ready to take on the world.

“Hustlers'” visual look is also quite appealing. Director Lorene Scafaria and cinematographer Todd Banhazl gave the flick a distinct look, as many scenes feature an abundance of neon colors and good lighting. It’s a very well shot film overall and it is stylish throughout.

Where “Hustlers” falls a bit short is in its third act. The film’s climax doesn’t bring the whole thing home in great fashion as one would hope for. There simply isn’t the punch in the finale that drives these points home. Part of this is because the social commentary could have probably had more teeth. Another is the framing device with the journalist, which doesn’t seem to pay off quite that much.

In 2015, Adam McKay directed “The Big Short,” a film with several sequences of characters breaking the fourth wall, a number of cameos and many moments of B-roll that played into the story being told. During “Hustlers,” my thought was that style would have been much more beneficial to the film than the journalist framing device.

However, “Hustlers” is still a well made movie featuring a great cast and superb dialogue. It’s an entertaining, dazzling crime flick that’s worth the price of admission. 3.85 out of 5.


Author: Matthew Liedke

Journalist and film critic in Minnesota. Graduate of Rainy River College and Minnesota State University in Moorhead. Outside of movies I also enjoy sports, craft beers and the occasional video game.

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