One of the quotes from today's movie reflects that, "The entire world is a strip club with some throwing money and the others collecting the money". It's also the film's reflection of it's setting in the aftermath of the 2007 financial collapse that lead into the Great Recession. It's no secret that a lot of people were affected by it, whether it was average Joes losing their low wage jobs or entire companies going under. It was a time that people reflected just how much they can do and if those at top should receive some type of consequence.
Our protagonists certainly thought so and used it as their justification to do the things they felt were right. What makes crime stories fascinating is that we're always going to see a different philosophy on just who the real villain is. Is it the people committing the actions against the law or the people after them who are just as likely to face their own corruption? This is also why several movies about the Great Recession like Up in the Air, The Big Short and 99 Homes have looked explore different viewpoints within a rough era. Hustlers takes it's turn at the time and several women involved in a specific industry.
It opens in 2007 where newcomer stripper Destiny (played by Constance Wu) is taken under the wing of veteran stripper/popular attraction Ramona (played by Jennifer Lopez). Ramona teaches Destiny several pole dancing and erotic dancing, along with introducing her to fellow strippers and how to get the most out of the Wall Street types who frequent the club. Destiny not only starts to rank in a lot of money, but she uses her new fortunes to care for her grandmother and newborn daughter. Things come to a halt at the start of the recession.
Years of the recession cause fewer people coming to the club and puts Destiny out of work. It doesn’t help that her background gives her little chance for other work. She eventually comes across Ramona again where they blame the recession on the same Wall Street guys. To retaliate and to generate an income, they agree to bring in other strippers including Annabelle (played by Lili Reinhart) and Mercedes (played by Keke Palmer) to take advantage of their beautiful nature to lure them into the clubs and take everything on their credit cards. All of this becomes chronicled by writer Elizabeth (played by Julia Stiles).
It may be easy to see Hustlers as something as exploitative as Showgirls. But to tell you the truth, I see it more like a cross of Boogie Nights and The Sting, and I ended up like the movie a more then I anticipated. I don't know if I can call it one of the best of 2019, but it has elements that are phenomenal. Speaking of which, I'll start by saying that Jennifer Lopez not only shines, but also gives what may be her best performance in a years. She paints a reflection of her eternal youth within a character whos the prime example of "looks can be deceiving".
Constance Wu fills in the role similar to Mark Wahlberg from Boogie Nights where she has two goals; to be the innocent whose filled in on the movie's information and to someone the audience can imagine themselves in. Hustlers uses this narrative to make their characters interestingly sympathetic, especially the lengths they go to accomplish their goals. Of course like a lot of crime stories, it all has to topple at some point and the movie has that…though it takes a lot of time to get there.
The first half of Hustlers was better then the second half. The con that's set up is a good one, but the pacing causes things to slow down too much. A lot of it is because much of the scenes repeat the con over and over. I know it's to show how much it works, but the movie also has a lot of slow motion edits which heighten moments at the strip club, but can come off as unnecessary during the con. If anything, the best moments from the second half are when the girls get together laugh about what happened and thus, seeing them connect.
I'll give this four stripper poles out of five. Hustlers is a movie that, regardless of how I felt, is probably going to do good business and have its eye on certain awards. It's too early to determine any guarantees, but I'll remember this; especially for Jennifer Lopez. I do recommend it in general and it'll make a good watch.