Inspired by a New York Magazine article, this deliciously enjoyable true-life drama centres on a deliriously charming performance by Jennifer Lopez as a strip club dancer who discovers a more direct way of getting cash from Wall Street sleazebags' pockets
“Doesn’t money make you horny?” asks Jennifer Lopez’s Ramona, the star dancer at an upmarket New York strip club, near the beginning of Lorene Scafaria's deliciously enjoyable true-life crime drama Hustlers. If that’s the case, you’re going to need a long cold shower after coming out of this film. Dollar green rains down on Ramona and her fellow strippers, including new girl Destiny (Constance Wu), from the wallets of Wall Street crooks swimming in ill-begotten cash – this is capitalism's halcyon days of 2007 after all. As Ramona says, the bills these men slip into her g-string are the only honest transactions they do in a day.
Todd Banhazl’s cinematography, which snakes and dashes and zooms around this pre-2008 crash excess, recalls the virtuosic, cocksure visuals we associate with Martin Scorsese’s kinetic studies in greed (Goodfellas, Casino, The Wolf of Wall Street). The comparison is supported by a fast-talking expository voiceover, slickly-edited montages and some inspired needle drops that seem to provide sly commentary on the action (Janet Jackson’s Control, Fat Joe’s Make It Rain, Britney Spears’ Gimme More; Lopez makes a rapturous entrance to Fiona Apple’s Criminal).
Where Hustlers breaks from the Scorsese playbook is that there’s honour among these thieves. With the 2008 crash thinning out the number of traders with cash to burn, these women are required to band together and come up with more inventive – and decidedly illegal – means to make bank: specifically, take the cash directly from the sleazeballs' pockets with the help of a cocktail of ketamine and MDMA.
As fun is it is to watch Wall Street's wolves get fleeced, the real joy of Hustlers is luxuriating in Ramona and Destiny’s friendship. Early in the film, while sharing a smoke on the strip joint's rooftop, Ramona beckons her new pal into her fur coat to keep warm. Lopez's charisma-to-burn performance does something similar to the audience. Not since the days of Gentlemen Prefer Blondes and How to Marry a Millionaire has women's morally dubious pursuit of wealth been so much fun.
Released by STX International