This surprise smash-hit took the American box office by storm last month and kicked off a new wave of wide appreciation for Jennifer Lopez, who shines brightly at its centre as a New York stripper named Ramona.
We get to know Ramona from the perspective of her co-worker Dorothy (Constance Wu), who is taken under Ramona's wing and schooled on the best way to make money from the Wall St jackasses who comprise their clientele.
When said clientele is hit hard by the 2008 economic downturn and the stripping trade dwindles, Ramona and Dorothy conceive of and execute a scheme in which they drug rich bar patrons, then take them back to the strip club to rack up large credit card charges that the patrons will be too embarrassed to complain about.
Hustlers is based on an article about true events published in New York magazine in 2015, and uses the writing of that article as a framing device: the author is portrayed by Julia Stiles, and interviews with the key participants narrate the story.
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The morality of Dorothy and Ramona's actions doesn't go unexamined, but the film is ultimately much more interested in the layers of their friendship, and the sense of empowerment they get from ripping off the jerks who always treated them terribly.
That empowerment greatly informs the film's crowd-pleasing appeal, and is rendered physical in Lopez's spectacular screen presence – the level of cinematic swagger she demonstrates here is worth seeing the film for alone. It's a treat to see a true movie star assert herself so emphatically.
There are great supporting turns from Keke Palmer and pop star Cardi B, plus an all too appropriate cameo from a certain RnB superstar with a pronounced proclivity for strip clubs.
Cast: Constance Wu, Jennifer Lopez, Cardi B, Mercedes Ruehl
Director: Lorene Scafaria
Running time: 110 minutes
Rating: R16 (Drug use, sexual references & offensive language)
Verdict: A sexy, charming caper film about the friends you made along the way.