Money makes the world go round and in Hustlers, it’s all about the score and Jennifer Lopez, Candance Wu and their fellow girlfriends take audiences on one crazy ride in their pursuit of fat stacks of cash.
The story centers around a group of strippers in New York City, led by an ambitious single mother, as they lie, steal, and hustle dozens of wealthy men when the sex industry bottoms out during the late-2000s financial crisis. A journalist covering the story for a magazine interviews one of the ringleaders and tries to figure out where it all went wrong.
When it comes to tales that are truly stranger than fiction they don’t get much crazier than Hustlers. Based on the antics of a group of exotic dancers who operated out of New York and made a very lucrative hustle out of skimming wealthy bankers out of their excessive savings, this film pulls no punches and there are plenty of moments to make you go ‘what!’. Director Lorene Scafaria crafts a very unique film that crosses into every genre from the crime film to the situational comedy, the intimate character study and the girl gang picture, all of them have a part to play in Hustlers. Scafaria does a great job of constructing a film that truly feels different and she keeps her audience entertained and on the hook at wanting to know what next score this team of ‘entrepreneurs’ are hatching next.
Taking the lead in Hustlers, and showing considerable dramatic range, is Constance Wu as Destiny, and she certainly holds the attention of her audience with a flawless performance. In Hustler’s Wu’s Destiny is the newbie, who finds a good thing, before it all gets taken away from her in circumstances out of her control, and then, through desperation, is willing to do anything to get it back. Wu’s Destiny is very much the troubled princess of Hustlers and she certainly brings the drama here. Never ditzy or over-the-top, Destiny is the only character who possesses a conscience and can see the repercussions of her actions. This type of character makes things interesting for Wu and gives her a challenge as a performer which only helps to empower her performance.
Stepping into the role of the alpha female and undisputed queen is Jennifer Lopez as Ramona, the ultra street smart and savvy woman who knows the rules of the hustling game and who is all about her paper. Introducing Destiny into her world, and showing her how you actually make a buck, JLo commands the screen here in Hustlers, and her scintillating opening act, and introductory dialogue of “doesn’t money make you horny”, completely sums up her character’s motivations. Flawlessly beautiful, and possessed of a fierce sexuality, JLo’s Ramona is out to get hers here. Concerning performance, Lopez’s in incredibly multi-layered. Moving from scene to scene, Ramona can be caring, charming, warm and ruthless, and it’s incredibly entertaining to watch JLo work as Ramona. JLo has never been better up on the screen, and she completely owns Hustlers in every way possible.
In terms of its filmmaking style, Scafaria brings something different to the screen and shakes up this true-crime story through her narrative framing. Seen through the eyes of a journalist (Julia Styles), Hustlers is a contemporary tale that takes into account the pre-recession, recession, and post-recession ecosystem of New York City capitalism and this structure leads to plenty of surprises and certainly keeps you guessing at every moment. Added to this a great use of comedy on the directors behalf, and you’ll be in hysterics when you see the lengths that these girls go to in order to get their money.
In terms of the cinematic experience, Hustlers carries a considerable sheen to its production values, and there’s plenty of flash up on the big screen. Both its production design and wardrobe is loaded with the bling factor, and its key stars certainly glisten via all sort of sparkly glam. All of this builds out the tantalizing fantasy-esque world that these women operate in, and audiences will certainly get wrapped up in it.
There’s also plenty of skin on display, and Scafaria is very matter of fact when it comes to the film’s use of nudity and sexual content. It is not handled in a gratuitous or over the top manner but carries a deep eroticism coupled with a day-to-day mundane quality. For the women of Hustlers, nudity and sexual expression are just part of the job, and nothing to bat an eyelash at. Although don’t get me wrong, there are some seriously sexy moments up on the screen and captured via Scafaria’s eye, well, you’ve never quite seen the adult industry like this before.
One of Hustlers key themes is the intersection between money and sex, and how both of these things are expressions of America’s commerce sector. Scafaria paints the picture that both high speculative Wall Street traders and the strippers who take their money are exactly alike in every way and that their transactions are a parable for the American economy. Either you’re selling or you’re buying and everyone is in on the hustle. This theme is one of the parts that elevates Hustlers, which some might label as a mere trashy comedy, but in reality, this is an incredibly layered piece of cinema. Hustlers is a smart and savvy girl gang movie and plenty is going on to keep you guessing as an audience member.
Hustlers also takes the time to explore female relationships and a heightened form of sisterhood that develops between its female characters. It’s made clear from the very beginning of the film that none of these women wants to rely on a man for any kind of support, and there’s a real focus on the will and focus needed to win the game and beat out these Wall Street guys at their own business. This especially takes on even greater significance following the 2008 recession which is when everything starts to get interesting for Destiny, Ramona and the rest of the dancers, and as they experience euphoric highs and crushing lows there’s an incredibly strong bond that grows between all of them.
Hustlers is a wild and explosive ride, and if you’re looking for some serious entertainment then you’ll find it with this bling infused film thanks to its powerhouse performances and totally crazy narrative.
Image: Roadshow Films