2019. R. 110 mins. Directed by Lorene Scafaria
Hustlers is the latest movie written and directed by Lorene Scafaria. She has had a great track record in previous years of directing and writing movies with seemingly unlikable characters that she manages to make you care for by the end. With Hustlers we follow Constance Wu as Destiny, a stripper who befriends a group of girls who come up with a scheme where they take advantage of clients that frequent their club in an effort to take more money from them. The ring leader of the group is Ramona (Jennifer Lopez) who takes Destiny under her wing and brings her into this life of crime that is full of sex, drugs and money.
On paper this movie has a lot going for it. You've got a proven director/writer in Lorene Scafaria, Constance Wu is a hot commodity at the moment, the story is based on a popular article from New York Magazine and throw in a solid supporting cast that features Julia Stiles, Keke Palmer along with popular music acts like Cardi B, G Easy and Lizzo. The one caveat to all this is who the entire movie was marketed around, Jennifer Lopez. When it comes to movies J. Lo doesn't have the best track record. Really outside of her performance in the underrated Out of Sight the majority of her performances have ranged from bad to average at best. Thankfully, she really knocks it out of the park with her performance and does some of her best acting in years.
What keeps things interesting here is the script from Scafaria. Not only is she able to get good performances from almost everybody in the cast but the dialogue she has written, just like her previous movies, is one of the biggest highlights. The audience can really get invested with these characters and care about them when they make mistakes. To go along with Jennifer Lopez, Constance Wu really stands out in her performance. She proved last year in Crazy Rich Asians that she can be a lead and she really holds her own here. Lopez and Wu have great chemistry and they get plenty of chances to show it off.
Outside of the two main stars it does at times feel like the rest of the cast doesn't get much to do. Keke Palmer and Lili Reinhart play the other two girls who are apart of the main group and for a while it seems like the story is going to give them more to do but then it kind of throws them to the side to just focus on Lopez and Wu more. Julia Stiles is limited in her role but the scenes she does get are solid overall. For those of you coming to see Cardi B and Lizzo because they are plastered all over the marketing, you will be sadly disappointed as they only get a couple of scenes.
Overall, Hustlers is relatively entertaining. Great performances from Constance Wu and Jennifer Lopez alone are enough to elevate this over some of it's shortcomings. It would have been nice to have some of the side characters fleshed out a little more and the movie jumping around between different years can be a bit jarring at times. The snappy dialogue and solid direction keep things moving along at a nice pace which keeps things from lagging too much.