‘Hustlers’ review: A scandalously good film with brilliant performances by Jennifer Lopez, Constance Wu and Cardi B
Based on a 2015 article in New York Magazine, 'The Hustlers at Scores' by Jessica Pressler, ‘Hustlers’ got audiences' attention the second the trailer dropped earlier this summer. It appears to have everything viewers could ever want in a film; grit, sex, a touch of comedy, a stellar soundtrack and an amazing cast.
However, the big question is, does it live up to the hype? So often in Hollywood, the trailers end up being better than the film, but luckily that isn't the case with ‘Hustlers’. Starring Jennifer Lopez, Constance Wu, Lili Reinhart, Kiki Palmer and featuring musical powerhouses Cardi B and Lizzo, ‘Hustlers’ follows the lives of strippers turned con-artists after the recession ruined their glamorous and profitable careers.
Lopez plays Ramona, a veteran stripper that takes newcomer Destiny (Wu) under her wing, showing her a life of money, glamor and dare we say, sisterhood. While the rags to riches montages are an all too familiar Hollywood trope, ‘Hustlers’ does it right by making audiences feel like they are a part of this magical world while also feeling the impending doom sure to come.
The fun doesn’t last forever and after what Destiny calls “the last good night” (a wildly entertaining scene in which Usher makes an appearance at the club throwing around money and popping bottles), the recession hits and Destiny finds out she's pregnant. Ramona and Destiny go their separate ways, now living the lives they were running away from in the first place.
It takes a couple of years for Destiny to come crawling back to her old friend and mentor, and when she does, Ramona has figured out a way to get back in the business of taking money from men. This time, it’s not legal, not even close. That said, their desperation drives them to play with fire and we know how those stories always end.
With her sidekicks Mercedes (Palmer) and Annabella (Reinhart), the trio target wealthy men at upscale bars where they spike drinks of their male targets with ketamine and MDMA, in turn making these men hand over their credit cards, blacking out not remembering a thing. Each of these women have a reason for their desperation, including Destiny who has a young daughter and a grandmother to take care of.
With the addition of Destiny to the team, the ladies partner up with their old strip club, giving them a cut of what they steal from the unsuspecting men. The chemistry between these four actresses is palpable, and quite frankly, each one gives the best performance of their careers.
Both Lopez and Wu portray their characters with vulnerability, sass and urgency and Palmer and Reinhart truly prove themselves to be future bonafide movie stars. And even though Cardi B and Lizzo only appear within the first 30 minutes of the film, they leave audiences wanting more, especially Cardi B who is obviously in her element.
The casting director of ‘Hustlers’ deserves an award because it is by far the best ensemble cast we have seen in years. Additionally, the cinematography is fantastic, adding even more layers to these complex characters. With the movie based on an article from New York Magazine, the way the film is shot gives it a journalistic undertone.
Speaking of the journalistic aspect of the film, the cherry on top of this wild sundae is the portrayal of real-life journalist Jessica Pressler who wrote the story (played by an earnest Julia Stiles). Just like the cinematography, the addition of these scenes between Destiny and Jessica create a real sense of grit and realism.
‘Hustlers’ releases nationwide September 13.