Hustlers is directed by Lorene Scafaria and it is based off a 2015 article from New York Magazine titled “The Hustlers At Scores”. This movie takes place in the late 2000’s and it follows a crew of strippers. Everything seems to be going swell until 2008, when the infamous financial crisis hits and robs the strip club of most of their customers. Now this crew led by Ramona will start drugging selective clients and steal their money. This movie stars Jennifer Lopez, Constance Wu, Julia Stiles, Keke Palmer, Lili Reinhart and guest stars Cardi B and Lizzo.
I remember seeing a trailer for this movie and thinking it looked good and that it had lots of potential. That was two months ago. Then the TIFF (Toronto International Film Festival) happened and it became one of the most talked about movies. It was getting rave reviews out of TIFF with many praising Lopez for what may be her best role and best shot at getting that Oscar nomination. My friend who worships Lopez was incredibly excited to see it so we went this week and I have to say, Hustlers is one of the biggest surprises I’ve seen this year.
I was expecting Hustlers to be a good crime drama but then the movie starts and I felt like it slapped me and said, this ain’t that kind of movie. Instead what I got was an artistic, visually intriguing, funny, slick and emotionally rich crime movie which put out all the stops to impress, and impress it did. From a technical aspect, the movie is great. From an acting perspective, the movie is great. Hustlers uses almost every aspect that makes a movie great and uses them them to their potential whether that be cinematography or even sound design. I say almost because the pacing of the movie is a bit off sometimes, and at times the movie completely trusts the audience to follow along with scenes that had no prior explanation.
At the core of Hustlers is the dynamic between Ramona and Destiny / Dorothy played by Lopez and Wu respectively. These two characters are easily the main reason why this movie is good as it is. Ramona being the all-knowing and clever Alpha and Destiny being the cautious learner. Their friendship and bond demands your attention. If you watch a scene from this movie with these two characters you feel like you’re watching two actual friends. it’s amazing acting from both actresses. Even though this movie is marketed as a crime movie, and it certainly is, the movie revolved around these two and their bond.
With the ensemble cast that it has, it doesn’t come as a shock to say that everyone was great. I loved Keke Palmer and Lili Reinhart’s characters, they were hilarious and brought a lot of the fun to the movie. They were energetic and brought some much-needed levity in some tense moments. I am a huge Lizzo fan and even though she only had one or two small cameos I loved every second of them. Cardi B is in her element here and it shows cause she is just as natural and funny as the rest of the cast. I also loved Constance Wu, she brought the care and cautious side of the story which I really appreciated, she also nails the emotional scenes.
All of this being said, the spotlight falls on Jennifer Lopez, who steals this movie. She’s not a scene-stealer, she’s a movie-stealer. From the moment she enters the movie, she exudes a presence which demands to be watched. From her stunning opening scene which truly impresses to her very last scene she showed that she truly brought her all into this. She aced the physical side of the role, she made the pole dancing look as easy as riding a bike and she made Ramona a complicated and nuanced character which might actually get her that Oscar nomination after all.
Hustlers also impressed me on a technical level. There was some amazing uses of sound editing which were there not to be cool but to actually intertwine with the scene and they elevated the scenes in a major way. There is even a scene in which a twist is revealed through the sound editing, it was brilliant. I literally gasped when that scene came on. Hustlers is also a gorgeous movie to look at, from the bright neon colours in the strip club with slick camera movements and immersive cinematography to an amazing scene using a continuous tracking shot to add tension. All of these little things made me appreciate Hustlers even more, it shows the effort that went into making this movie.
Overall Hustlers is a sophisticated, visually intriguing and emotionally rich crime movie which excels by focusing on it’s main two leads and their dynamic. Thanks to an energetic and incredibly talented cast who bring their all to this movie and a success from a technical level, Hustlers stands out from the average crime movie and in doing so surprising the hell out of me. I will definitely re-watch and I do hope this does get recognized at the Oscars or any award show for that matter.