Eleven years later, and the great recession is still echoing throughout most of America, especially with fear of a new one. Based on the article “The Hustlers at Scores” by writer Jesssica Pressler, “The Hustlers” is a surprisingly tight and engrossing crime drama. It’s one that takes the still very relevant concept of economic ruin and the ever widening class gap, and injects it in to what’s often a tense and engaging tale of people exploiting people, exploiting people.
Lorene Scafaria’s crime drama is the alleged true story of Destiny, a woman working as a stripper to make ends meet whose life changes forever when she becomes friends with Ramona — the club’s top monesy earner. Ramona soon shows Destiny how to finagle her way around the wealthy Wall street clientele who frequent the club. But when the 2008 economic collapse cuts into their profits and leaves them anxious for more cash, the friends and two other dancers devise a daring scheme to take their lives back by exploiting the businessmen.
It’s quite obvious that director Scafaria draws a lot of her influence for “The Hustlers” from Scorsese, practicing a ton of his quick cuts, stern narration, and foggy recollection of events as characters dive straight in to hell. All that’s missing is the vicious violence usually present. That’s not a knock on the film by any stretch but it surprisingly works for such an interesting crime tale of women using their body and wits to make their way in the world. Most of the characters that we meet are just one step away from imploding, so the moment alpha female Ramona introduces the plan to drug Wall Street brokers and take their money, it’s a bee line in to disaster.
Scafaria compiles a fantastic ensemble cast that includes hip hop star Cardi B, Lili Reinhart, Keke Palmer, Julia Stiles, and Constance Wu who stars. And while they are great, make no mistake, that this is Jennifer Lopez’s movie. While Lopez is one who plays supporting here, as Ramona she’s a force of sexual nature who just dominates every scene she’s in. The opening scene establishing Ramona as she slays her audience of male stock brokers to the tune of “Criminal” is breathtaking, especially in the way Scarfaria frames her and depicts as someone who pretty much has her entire audience pegged to the point where it literally rains money on her.
Lopez looks unbelievable as a stripper, clinging to every dress, and flaunting her raw sex appeal along with an attitude that makes her a fascinating individual. Lopez’s work in this role pays off in spades, as she successfully portrays such a flawed, complex individual that we can never quite figure out, even when the film closes. If anything I can complain about, the finale leaves a lot to be desired as it never seems to really bring everything to a logical conclusion. That said, “The Hustlers” is a very good crime drama with stunning performances, including a mesmerizing comeback by Jennifer Lopez.