Hustlers (2019)

Based on a New York Magazine article, a group of strippers get together to make money using their Wall Street clients.

Director: Lorene Scafaria

Cast: Constance Wu, Jennifer Lopez, Julia Stiles, Keke Palmer, Wai Ching Ho, Cardi B

MPAA Rating: R for pervasive sexual material, drug content, language and nudity

Fun Fact: Martin Scorsese was offered to direct this film. He turned it down.

I didn’t have plans to reviewing this film, but my wife rented the other night and we had a double feature movie night. My choice was Knives Out and if you read my review you can see that I loved it. When this film came out, I didn’t really know that it was released and heard very little of it. I had heard of Jennifer Lopez was in this movie and that she was snubbed come awards season. I didn’t even know this was based off a true story to say the least. So, you could say that I was clueless when it came to this film. I wouldn’t consider what I’m writing in this review a spoiler since the source material had happened in real life.

What did I think of it? Honestly, I’m mixed with this one. The first half has some interesting setup and character development. Like I said earlier that I didn’t know much about the source material, and while they had to obviously change some names and such, it was still interesting to see what had happened. This happened during the Wall Street crash in 2008 and a few years after that had happened. We see this group of strippers have fallen on hard times and look to their old Wall Street clients for payback. Now it’s never good to rob someone, but these bankers were also responsible for the market crash so they could be considered crooks too. Director Lorene Scafaria also wrote the script and she does a pretty decent job at making the viewer decide on if the group of strippers are doing the right thing. Are they a modern-day Robin Hood minus giving the money to the poor? Or are they criminals doing a horrible thing? Do these clients deserve to be robbed? It all depends on what you think, and Scafaria does a decent job writing and having the viewer decide on answering those questions.

With Scafaria’s script we get some nice setup and getting to know the characters. We get their backstories and why they had to get into stripping and why they need to do it. It shows them when they try to have a new life that it’s unfortunate that when the economy tanked that they had to resort back to their old ways. Scafaria also does a great job directing these scenes and it’s a well-directed film. She get’s great performances and the scenes where the characters are in the strip club are the best parts of the movie. It feels like you’re in a high-end club and have a front row seat on what is going on. Scafaria also gets great performances, especially from….

Jennifer Lopez does a fantastic job as Ramona, the ringleader of the group. She has a very physically demanding role in having to do a couple of pole dance scenes in the film. It’s obvious that she trained hard and took the training seriously and the choreography is fantastic as well. Did she get snubbed? Lopez does a great job and it would’ve been nice to see some recognition for work that she put in. This is probably the best performance that I’ve seen in her career. Constance Wu place Destiny, who Ramona takes under her wing. Wu and Lopez have a great chemistry on screen together. I read that they had a bit of freedom with the script as they improvised quite a bit. The freedom they got from Scafaria payed off as the performances felt real.

Now what holds Hustlers from being a great film? The second half drags the film down. It starts to slow down with many scenes that feel like the film is on repeat. It mostly consists of one of the members of the group with a potential client. The camera pans to the rest of the group coming to the same bar to the same location. This happens about three or four more times and at that point the film is on rinse and repeat mode. It would’ve been nice to see the film mix it up a bit more with those scenes. Maybe go to different locations and such instead of seeing the same scene repeatedly. That brings the film’s pacing down as it gets rather boring seeing the same thing over again.

Overall, Hustlers is decent, but not great. It has decent direction, writing, and some fantastic performances. Jennifer Lopez and Constance Wu have great chemistry together on screen. Lopez has a demanding role and a ton off work and effort is put into it. It’s a shame she didn’t get much recognition for this because it’s probably the best performance I’ve seen from her. While the first half of the film is strong, it’s the second half that falls flat. The pacing gets slower and it feels like it’s the same scene on repeat. It would’ve been nice if they mixed up those scenes to give the film variety. The second half is where the heightened tension should be at, but the film goes into autopilot mode. It’s a shame because if the second half were stronger, we would’ve had a great film on our hands.

Verdict: Middle Ground

Wife’s Verdict: Middle Ground. She thought that Hustlers was ok, and that Magic Mike was a better movie. Her biggest complaint was there was not enough Cardi B scenes.

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