Hustlers review – pulse-racing empowerment | Film

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“This is a story about control,” purrs Janet Jackson on her 1986 empowerment anthem Control, which opens this riotous true tale. A resourceful girl gang of exotic dancers sets out to “fleece” New York’s sleaziest fat cats, drugging their drinks and running up their credit card bills in an act of feminist liberation from both men and The Man. The year is 2007 and top-tier scumbags are coming “straight from the crime scene to the club”, as Jennifer Lopez’s den mother, Ramona, puts it, suggesting that her own lawless behaviour is simply fair game. Based on, and faithful to, a 2015 New York Magazine article by Jessica Pressler, Hustlers is a classically made film about capital – sexual, social and financial. What feels contemporary is the way it weaves in the impact of the 2008 financial crisis; Wall Street on its ass, seen from an upskirt vantage point. For all its razzle-dazzle, its pessimistic subtext reminded me of another downbeat, post-recession take on the entertainment industry, Steven Soderbergh’s Magic Mike.

Crazy Rich Asians’ Constance Wu plays foil to Lopez’s Ramona as the enjoyably unreliable ingenue Destiny, with Lopez harnessing her natural warmth, swagger and athleticism both on the pole and off. Writer-director Lorene Scafaria (2012’s Seeking a Friend for the End of the World) takes a playful approach to her source material, dressing Lopez in an enormous fur coat and lingerie in a nod to the music video for her 2002 hit Jenny from the Block. Elsewhere, rapper and ex-dancer Cardi B teaches Destiny how to give a lapdance, while a jaw-dropping striptease is soundtracked by Fiona Apple’s Criminal.

Perhaps too reliant on the structure of the original article, which tells the events in flashback, the film wraps up a little hastily. Brilliantly, though, the editing is teasing rather than explicit; Scafaria offers just enough of the girls and their bodies to get pulses racing without exploiting them or their story.

Watch the trailer for Hustlers.

Source: The Guardian
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