Hustlers is a film whose synopsis is likely to make one either very interested to see it, or not at all. Based on true events, the plot follows the lead characters witness a decline in customers after the 2008 financial crisis, causing them to decide to drug and scam Wall Street brokers to make heaps of money.
Newcomer to stripping and financially struggling Destiny (Constance Wu) and veteran stripper Ramona (Jennifer Lopez) form the film’s central character dynamic. Their relationship sees Destiny evolve and grow as a character, resulting in an arc that is genuinely resonant and somewhat thought-provoking. The audience can understand and sympathise with the women’s actions as they are, as they themselves put it, essentially stealing from thieves. As their plight begins to have real ethical and legal consequences, the film essentially asks the characters (and the audience) questions to which there are no clear answers.
Both Wu and Lopez give great performances, with Wu serving as the emotional and moral core, contrasting with Lopez’s confident, ambitious and unpredictable charisma. The rest of the cast also give solid performances, with particular credit given to the dance sequences and behavioural mannerisms, impressively choreographed by professional dancer Johanna Sapakie and supervised by Jacq the Stripper respectively. The portrayal of the stripping industry must also be praised, highlighting the crew’s sisterhood-like bond, as well as their very real struggle to make a living.
Particularly praiseworthy is director Lorene Scafaria, who adds liveliness and neon-filled neo-noir allure to the nightclub sequences (greatly enhanced by the costume design, production design and cinematography). In two instances, Scafaria utilises audio in very creative, yet narratively purposeful ways that were genuinely surprising and refreshing. To that point, even the end-credits are fantastically creative in their execution. These minute details in filmmaking elevate the film, creating a more engaging experience.
The plot does feel slightly formulaic at times, and the pacing is somewhat repetitive in the second half. The conclusion is ever so slightly rushed and doesn’t quite carry the weight it otherwise may have. For those interested in a deeper, more emotionally complex and character-driven experience, this film doesn’t exactly provide that. Regardless, Hustlers is a well-made, well-directed, enjoyable film with great performances, colourful cinematography and an interesting real-life story to boot.
Image: alessandrodandrea via Pixabay