Film Review - Hustlers

This image released by STXfilms shows, from left, Lili Reinhart, Jennifer Lopez, Keke Palmer and Constance Wu in a scene from “Hustlers.” The film is playing at the Premiere 11 in Galveston and the Cinemark 18 and XD in Webster.

“Hustlers” has many montages in it. The most important is Jennifer Lopez’ entrance, which is wild, glittery, nasty and impressive. Her physicality, along with nearly everything else, is on full display.

The excitement truly ends after the pole dance, but, unfortunately, the musical montage of glamorous strippers continues in slow motion.

Based on a true story of savvy New York strippers drugging men for money (no coincidence rapper Cardi B is featured in the cast), “Hustlers” doesn’t tell a story as much as it just moves the characters from one bad idea to another. What’s worse, writer/directorLorene Scafaria’s feature doesn’t make room for empathy anywhere, not the victims, not the criminals. We just observe, and then it’s over.

Best friends Destiny (Constance Wu) and queen of the elusive strip club Ramona (Lopez) get a modest take from their provocative dances and teasing outfits. It’s shameful work, but they view it as their only option.

Then the Great Recession hits, and money stops flowing into the club. Destiny and Ramona, desperate to maintain their lifestyle, decide to drug Wall Street sharks while providing them a good time that will fill their bank accounts quicker.

These women have been treated badly by these men for years, why not take a little back, and both women have children to feed. Their scam catches up with them, though, when they get lazy and hustle the wrong guy.

“Motherhood is a mental illness,” Ramona said, which is basically excuse No. 1 for their criminal actions. Later in the film, an entire scene is spent justifying their actions.

“Hustlers” has much fur flying, champagne corks popping and some of the hottest stars from music and film scantily clad, but little more. Lopez (“Second Act”) is playing herself, as she does in every movie bearing her name. She is selling her brand whether you realize it or not.

Wu is the sidekick, driving the narrative by telling her story to a reporter (Julia Stiles). The voiceover is persistently annoying. More than once Ramona refers to “the past,” which was literally minutes ago in running time. She also makes multiple references about their actions, “We were hurricanes,” which the film tries to spin as a positive element somehow.

“Hustlers” passes the trashy point pretty early, and nosedives into a simple retelling of events that are less than entertaining. Bad people doing bad things.

It’s a hard sell and for many viewers, adding pop stars who have no business on the big screen doesn’t help. Another one of Ramona’s instructions to the girls is to run down the clock while with the client. That certainly proves true with “Hustlers” grossly unjustified running time, compounded by the inexcusably bad use of musical montages.

“Hustlers” largest failure is how, despite all, it never manages to entertain.

Final Thought: “Hustlers” embodies a trashy music video that stops periodically for some really bad dialogue and plotting.

Dustin Chase is a film critic and associate editor with Texas Art & Film, which is based in Galveston. Visit texasartfilm.com.

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