Connect with us
Hustlers film review
Image: STXfilms

Film

Hustlers Is a Confused, Empty Spectacle

Hustlers is a flashy yet empty movie that can’t decide if it wants to be a feel-good tale of female empowerment or a nuanced social critique.

TIFF 2019: Hustlers

There are few kinds of movies as satisfying as well-executed heist films in which the thieves in question rob from someone totally deserving of it. We get to combine the thrills of the high-stakes theft with the moral pleasure of seeing someone who deserves nothing lose everything. Hustlers, written and directed by Lorene Scafaria, initially sees itself as one of these righteous heist movies, before unconvincingly attempting to become something more interesting and complex toward the end. Instead, it winds up just a shallow collection of slow-motion shots of beautiful women walking toward the camera.

Hustlers begins around 2007 when Wall Street is riding high ahead of the impending collapse of the global financial markets. Constance Wu plays Dorothy, an exotic dancer who has just started at an upscale strip club in New York City, where she’s looking to up what she’d been earning at smaller clubs. But Dorothy doesn’t have the experience to put on the kind of dances that earn the most tips, and she’s timid and uncomfortable with her customers in the private rooms.

Hustelrs film review
Image: STXfilms

Ramona (Jennifer Lopez), one of the more experienced dancers and a high earner, takes Dorothy under her wing and helps perfect her technique. But the increased cash doesn’t do anything to help her deal with the swarms of misogynistic customers and harassers who torment her at work, nor the men behind the scenes who demand a cut of her pay at every step. Once the markets crash, Dorothy’s wealthy clients drop out, and she stops stripping for a time; eventually she’s lured back and reunites with Ramona, who cooks up a scheme to bring added security to both their families: they’ll drug high rollers with a mixture of ketamine (to sedate them and prevent them from remembering anything) and MDMA (to ensure they have a good time throughout the process), then max out their credit cards for as much as they’re worth. Scafaria portrays this shift as a feminist victory for Dorothy, Ramona, and the other dancers they let in on the play — they’re never photographed as glamorously as they are when they’re taking some Wall Street bro for everything he’s worth.

Hustlers doesn’t have much of interest to say about its characters or the wider financial structures that give them an incentive to steal from wealthy men. Some reviewers have compared the film to Martin Scorsese’s work, but Scafaria has little of his style, and her film lacks the social critique built into films like The Wolf of Wall Street or Casino. It’s spectacle as transparent and empty as a diamond.

The Toronto International Film Festival runs September 5 – September 15

Watch Hustlers

Now Streaming

Written By

Brian Marks is Sordid Cinema's Lead Film Critic. His writing has appeared in The Village Voice, LA Weekly, The Los Angeles Times, and Ampersand. He's a graduate of USC's master's program in Specialized Arts Journalism. You can find more of his writing at InPraiseofCinema.com. Best film experience: driving halfway across the the country for a screening of Jean-Luc Godard's "King Lear." Totally worth it.

Click to comment

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published.

Facebook

Trending

Vesper poster Vesper poster

Vesper: Sci-Fi That Thinks Big With Limited Means

Culture

Full Metal Jacket (1987) Full Metal Jacket (1987)

Full Metal Jacket – Stanley Kubrick’s Misunderstood Masterpiece

Film

Your Full List of All Upcoming Marvel Movies Your Full List of All Upcoming Marvel Movies

A Full List Of Upcoming Marvel Studios Film And TV Releases

Culture

Robocop 1987 Robocop 1987

RoboCop is a Social Satire That Gets More Relevant With Age

Film

Neil Gaiman’s The Sandman: The 10 Greatest Comic Issues Neil Gaiman’s The Sandman: The 10 Greatest Comic Issues

Neil Gaiman’s The Sandman: The 10 Greatest Comic Issues

Comics

Nope Nope

Jordan Peele’s Nope Explained: A Spectacle of “Bad Miracles”

Film

Alex's War (2022) Alex's War (2022)

Alex’s War, a Documentary Study of Alex Jones, Misses the Big Picture 

Film

Anti-War Anti-War

Three Bestselling Anti-War Novels, Three A-List Film Adaptations…Three Flops:  Castle Keep, Catch-22, Slaughterhouse-Five

Culture

Signs movie review Signs movie review

M. Night Shyamalan Signs Finds Comfort at the End of the World

Film

All Out 2022 Predictions All Out 2022 Predictions

Way Too Early Predictions for All Out 2022

Wrestling

Biography: WWE Legends’ Look at Goldberg is One of the Best Wrestling Documentaries Ever 

TV

Detective vs Sleuths Detective vs Sleuths

Detective vs. Sleuths: Buckle Up for a Bumpy Ride

Culture

The Gray Man movie review The Gray Man movie review

Netflix’s The Gray Man is its Most Expensive and Emptiest Star Vehicle

Culture

Unforgiven movie review Unforgiven movie review

Unforgiven Ushered the Western into its Afterlife 

Culture

Incredible Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles: The Last Ronin Fan Film Takes The Franchise Into R-Rated Territory

Culture

Paul Verhoeven’s RoboCop 1987 Paul Verhoeven’s RoboCop 1987

Paul Verhoeven’s RoboCop is an Anti-Fascist Classic 

Film

Connect