Hustlers, by Cameron J. Czaja

When I first started this position I knew I would jump on a grenade or two, I just didn’t know that it was going to be on my second review. Go figure. The reason I say this is because this film that I’m discussing, Hustlers, is about female strippers and their lifestyle. As a Catholic man, that’s not the first thing I gravitate to on a daily basis. The one thing, however, that kept me optimistic when I went in was the great acting from Jennifer Lopez that several critics have mentioned in their reviews. As a cinephile, I’m a sucker for great performances. Was my optimism justified here? Let’s find out.

In Hustlers we follow Destiny (her real name is Dorthy but she mostly goes by her stage name), played by Constance Wu, as she begins her position as the new girl at a strip club in New York City in 2007. After a short time she becomes the protégé to a veteran stripper named Romana (Jennifer Lopez). From there she thinks she is on top of the world, performing “dances” for rich Wall Street stock brokers that are generous with their wealth. Then the financial crisis of 2008 happened and the club lost a majority of their clientele. This event kicks off the plot, which involves the strippers from the club (with Romana being the ring leader) hustle what rich clients they had left out of thousands of dollars using their connections, looks, and illegal substances. What can possibly go wrong?

As I mentioned earlier, I’m a Catholic man that doesn’t get drawn into the strip club lifestyle and after ten minutes of Hustlers I knew it was not for me. The first act alone is basically what life is like in a strip club from the strippers to the clientele and after a while I started getting bored and annoyed. Bored because this environment that I was viewing was not for me and annoyed because Cardi B is in the film as one of the dancers. Every time she spoke I just rolled my eyes. Fortunately she’s not in it that much.

Now comes the second act of Hustlers and from there I thought it would get a lot better since that’s when the plot kicks off. Spoiler alert: not really. While I do give it credit for being a more linear story, it’s still one that I really couldn’t care for as a good majority of the characters are unlikable and they were performing illegal activities that they think is justifiable. I couldn’t get on board with that.

I would say all is lost with Hustlers, but then came the third act which really surprised on a filmmaking level. For example, there’s the cliché moment in any criminal film when someone has to wear a wire during a sting operation and the audio throughout the entire scene sounds like you’re hearing the recording from the wire. I thought that was impressive, at least.

Another positive thing that I will add about Hustlers was that my optimism over Jennifer Lopez’s performance was justified as she delivered a terrific performance. Constance Wu was also consistent throughout the film. Like I said I’m a sucker for great performances despite not liking the characters themselves.

Aside from the terrific acting and great technical filmmaking there’s nothing really in Hustlers to recommend it as it felt like a chore observing the strip club lifestyle and their immoral acts, with which they seem perfectly comfortable. I just wished that Ad Astra had come out this week.

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