Dan's Review: The Honor Among Thieves in "Hustlers"Sep 13, 2019 10:04AM ● By Dan Metcalf
Lili Reinhart, Jennifer Lopez, Keke Palmer, and Constance Wu in Hustlers - © 2019 STX Films.
Hustlers (STX Films)
Rated R for pervasive sexual material, drug content, language, and nudity.
Starring Constance Wu, Jennifer Lopez, Cardi B, Lili Reinhart, Keke Palmer, Julia Stiles, Lizzo, Mercedes Ruehl, Trace Lysette , Usher, Mette Towley, Madeline Brewer, Stormi Maya, Frank Whaley, Brandon Keener, Steven Boyer, Jovanni Ortiz, Jon Glaser, Paul A Nielsen, Kersti Bryan.
Written by Lorene Scafaria, based on "The Hustlers at Scores" by Jessica Pressler.
Directed by Lorene Scafaria.
They say everybody has a vice. For me, it’s diet cola (I currently have no sponsor, hehe), but for others, such pleasures can range from the tame (like soft drinks) to the extreme. Hustlers, a new film based on a true story explores the extreme edges of pleasure-seeking as a story about strippers (aka exotic dancers) who fleece wealthy men.
Constance Wu stars as Dorothy (aka “Destiny”) a young woman trying to support her grandmother by dancing at a well-known New York City strip club. With all her expenses, Destiny can barely make ends meet until she becomes friends with Ramona (Jennifer Lopez), one of the more successful dancers in the club. Ramona tutors Destiny on how to attract more wealthy customers and get more money out of them. When the 2008 recession hits, Destiny becomes pregnant and work dries up due to decreasing clientele at the strip club. A few years later, Destiny and Ramona reunite with a new strategy to separate wealthy “Wall Street types) from their cash and credit cards. They meet them in restaurants and bars where the women drug the men, making them more pliable to spend. Making a deal with the strip club, the women pay a small finder’s fee to keep the men coming back for more private fun. The scheme works, helping the business partners and their posse, including Annabelle (Lili Reinhart) and Mercedes (Keke Palmer) to make a lot of quick cash. Things go well until some of the women’s victims come forward telling police how their personal and corporate accounts have been emptied by the women. The law catches up with Destiny and Ramona as their dream of a grand lifestyle ends, along with their friendship.
Hustlers is appealing as a rags-to-riches-to-rags story, with all the usual pitfalls and lessons learned, albeit with lots of glitter, house music and naked women as a backdrop. The moral of the story is somewhat duplicitous, offering the idea that since those nasty Wall Street types have fleeced the world, it’s okay for women to fleece them, or a simple “everybody has a vice” premise suggesting that it’s okay to engage in a little larceny among thieves as long as everybody has a good time. I don’t know if this principle will ring true for those of us whose vices go no further than a little caffeine and soda but making stripper/fraudsters seem heroic might be a bit a stretch. The movie also has a comedic vibe to it, poking fun at some of the strip club clichés along the way.
Shaky morals aside, the chemistry among Wu and Lopez is noteworthy, with Lopez delivering the best performance of her career and she may get a little postseason awards consideration. Julia Stiles also anchors the stories and characters together, portraying a journalist who interviews the women.
Also worth noting is the fact that Hustlers is, after all, a story about strippers but the nudity is surprisingly kept at a minimum (mostly in the background), with Wu and Lopez keeping mostly covered throughout the film. It is rated R for some nudity, but it’s mostly because of the language. If such things are outside the limits of your vices, consider yourself warned.