To the ear, a crime drama involving Jennifer Lopez and strip club wouldn’t sound like a very compatible fit, but “Hustlers” succeeds behind the strength of some strong performances and some good story telling.
Lopez stars as Ramona, a veteran exotic dancer who takes Destiny (played Constance Wu of Crazy Rich Asians), under her wing as the latter struggles to support her sick grandmother. Together, the two start a hustle that involves drugging recession era investment bankers and taking their money in the champagne room of their strip club. As their friendship and operation grows, it’s only a matter of time before the challenges arrive.
Lopez and Wu are what really allows this movie to work. We’ve never seen a “J-Lo” in a role like this one, where she’s playing a character that is very opposite of her public persona. Wu also does career best work here, bringing more emotional elements into the story.
Director Lorene Scafaria keeps the story moving with little time wasted and really allows us to feel the highs and lows the characters experience as we get to know them. The film’s time jumps and easy laughs compliment the narrative well and their is a real crime ring feel to the story once it gets going.
It’s not a perfect film. The plot has some holes and the movie loses it’s way whenever it’s two stars aren’t on screen. The unpleasantness of the strip club life and the behavior of some of it’s customers might bother some viewers. It’s also accurate to say there are no heroes in this film.
But “Hustlers” does a good job bringing this inspired by true events story to life, and give Lopez’s film resume a needed boost while continuing Wu’s promising future in leading roles.
Running time: 1Hr 47 minutes