When Jennifer Lopez makes an entrance in Hustlers, boy does she make an entrance!
In fact, were it not for the loud soundtrack pumping out Fiona Apple’s song Criminal, you would hear audible gasps in the cinema as she contorts her body around a stripper’s pole like a candy-snake wrapped around a drinking-straw. And without any crass insinuations, it is a sight to behold.
Bookended on either side of the Global Financial Crisis of 2007-08, the story – based on a New York Magazine article and presented onscreen as a chronicle – follows Destiny (Constance Wu), a struggling young woman who turns to stripping to makes ends meet. Seeking guidance from the club’s highest earning performer, Ramona (Lopez), she quickly learns the tricks of the trade and how to exploit men’s weaknesses.
With Destiny having only just risen to the top, the GFC hits America hard and the women end up out of work. Ramona hatches a scheme to pick up wealthy Wall Street businessmen in bars, drug them and max out their credit cards, and before long they are running a highly profitable operation with a small workforce of women onboard to widen their net.
Hustlers is a good-looking film, boasting an energetic atmosphere. The earlier strip clubs scenes are shot with an emphasis on the glitz and glamour as the ladies take to the stage in front of galleries of frenzied men, and their performances are unflinching.
Lopez delivers a remarkable and dazzling performance that is one thread away from full nudity, showcasing her age-defying body with absolute confidence. As buzz of Oscar contention begins to grow, it’s easy to subscribe to that sentiment. Wu is also excellent and leads the film confidently with an impressive range that’s both vulnerable and defiant. Hers is perhaps the more accolade-worthy performance, although Oscar is more likely to knock on Lopez’s door.
Hustlers arrives theatrically with a strong sense of familiarity with films like Magic Mike, Oceans 8 and Molly’s Game. Imagine those titles fusing together and you will have reasonable expectations. Arrive to it for Jennifer Lopez. Keep watching for Constance Wu, and then stick around to learn a fascinating true story about strippers outsmarting corporate-types. There’s also enjoyment to be had – as well as merit – in exploring the impact of the GFC from this peculiar perspective. You might also discover a rising star in its director, Lorene Scafaria, whose previous films include Seeking a Friend for the End of the World and The Meddler.
In cinemas: October 10, 2019
Starring: Constance Wu, Jennifer Lopez, Julia Stiles
Directed by: Lorene Scafaria