Hustlers (2019) Blu-ray Review: Hustles the Audience

Inspired by a true story, Hustlers follows a group of conniving strippers as they turn the tables on their clients for illicit gains. The film aspires to be some sort of postmodern female-empowerment tale, but has such a paper-thin plot, weak character development, and wan direction that it ends up being an utterly bland, disposable affair. Even the casting of this film is a bit of a hustle, since Jennifer Lopez is clearly the biggest name and draw in the cast but acts as a secondary character in the story told from the perspective of Constance Wu’s newbie stripper character, Destiny.

When Destiny joins the ranks of dancers at a posh strip club, she quickly befriends the queen bee, Ramona (Lopez). Ramona shows her the ropes, acting as her mentor as she learns the best methods and stage techniques to maximize her tips. All of the club’s dancers are friendly, acting as a surrogate family for each other as they work the pole to get that money from the club’s clientele of Wall Street types. All is well until the 2008 financial crisis dries up their revenue stream, leading them to the creative idea of drugging the highest rollers with a euphoric mix of ecstasy and ketamine in order to run up huge charges on their credit cards that the embarrassed marks never report.

Of course, more money means more problems, with the once-tight group of now-wealthy dancers succumbing to some in-fighting and changes in membership that increase their risks as they continue their scam. The story is recounted in flashback, with present-day Destiny talking to a reporter (Julia Stiles) about events that transpired over nearly a decade.

Granted, many viewers aren’t here for the plot, but there’s not much here for them either. Aside from one show-stopping number by Lopez, there’s very little scandalous dancing in the film, although all of the actresses seem to revel in their hustling personas, including Cardi B and Lizzo in minor roles. Lopez in particular fully commits to the role, at 50 still an amazing force on the dance floor and a fine dramatic performer as well. It’s just unfortunate that the script doesn’t offer fully-formed characters for any of the actresses, as we end up knowing very little about their lives outside of the club, making it difficult to care about what happens to any of them.

The Blu-ray also hustles viewers looking for bonus features, with only a couple of trailers and an audio commentary. It’s not a terrible film for fans seeking sizeable performances by Lopez and Wu, but so very little actually happens that it vanishes from memory nearly as soon as it ends.

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Steve Geise

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