Hitting theaters last weekend, “Hustlers” is an energetic, empowering and hilarious film that provides a refreshing take on a heist movie. The film showcases the comradery and relationships its lead actresses have with one another, while also highlighting the great lengths they will go to better themselves and their family.
Based on a true story, the film follows Destiny (Constance Wu), a single mother who works at a strip club in New York City under the mentorship of Ramona (Jennifer Lopez). However, as the financial crisis of 2007 hits, Destiny finds herself struggling to provide for herself and her family, unable to find work of any kind. Determined not to be pushed aside by the elite of society, Ramona devises a plan to go fishing for clients in a somewhat unethical way.
At its core, the film is driven by a commanding performance from Lopez. In her most memorable performance since “Selena” nearly 22 years ago, Lopez brings a larger-than-life persona that looms over the entire movie. A dominating force among a strong cast, Lopez’s presence is felt whether she is on or off the screen. It’s a role that’s not particularly relatable, but one where you can understand the compassion and care she has for everyone around her. Although unlikely to win her an Oscar, this is a performance that will spark consideration without a doubt.
However, with Lopez’s performance creating a dominant presence across the entire film, the rest of the movie seems to miss the grandeur of that presence. With the film dedicating the second act to the “heist,” the last 40 minutes are unable to match the climatic and comedic highs created by the “hustle.” This contrast is evident when the film takes a significant shift, focusing solely on Destiny’s impressive, albeit predictable, storyline. The last act of the movie lacks a looming presence from Lopez, where her screen time becomes exceptionally scarce, as the film considerably slows down to the finale. It makes this absence more evident as major supporting characters are almost entirely forgotten, with the film concluding their storylines within a couple of minutes.
Despite this, the film never loses sight of its main strength, in having an empowering group of women who take charge of their situation and the movie. The relationships these women have with one another is never in doubt, as their commitment to bettering themselves and supporting one another is pushed through turmoil. These are people who make the most of their position, as they use it to take control and better their lives. It’s a quality that allows the audience to connect with these women on a deeper level despite the unethical way they received their income. These women are investing everything back in themselves and their families, which is made clear from the beginning. This framing in itself creates a unique storyline for the film, as the movie touches on people not believing that these women could do this and men not wanting to admit what happened to them. It’s a simple yet crucial storyline that the film uses to elevate what has occurred.
In a surprise victory for struggling studio STX, “Hustlers” differs from typical heist films in creating relatable motivation for the events that follow. A remarkable performance by Lopez, who is aided by an equally impressive and charismatic supporting cast, streamlines the film. Although the pace slugs a bit in the end after a climactic high, it’s still a story that will maintain audience attention despite its predictability. The films decision to highlight all aspects of what unfolds is a welcome one, as the film will draw audiences in with for its comedic wit and the empowerment of its astounding cast.