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I hope my wife doesn’t read this review. …Jennifer Lopez plays a street wise stripper with a heart of well…cubic zirconia in the entertaining crime drama Hustlers. Most notable to me was the standout performance of Constance Wu. Her multi-dimensional portrayal of Destiny, a struggling exotic dancer in a toxic relationship, steals the movie. Constance Wu could give Leo DiCaprio a master class on crying in film. J. Lo on the other hand, with her understated performance as queen of a lucrative drug and fraud ring comes off flat in the face of Wu’s transformations. 

The plot reminds me of recent films where women take over a criminal enterprise as men fail or abandon them, for example Widows. It also reminds me of the story structure of Annie Hall, including a montage of good times these buddies have had at the end of the film in reverse chronological order. It’s at times tough to feel empathy for the main characters in Hustlers. They certainly had their fun. And their excuse for the crime spree, “If it wasn’t us it would be someone else.” strains credulity. Two wrongs and all that. However, as a portrait of the power of personality or of a life that spirals as if its moral compass is demagnetized, the film works.

Hustlers has a high production value. Technically, it’s a strong film with impressive makeup, hair, costume, sound design and cinematography. It’s also cast extremely well. Overall, Lorene Scafaria did an excellent job co-producing, writing the screenplay and directing.

I know you are waiting for me to say something about J. Lo. Let’s just say that during the end credits Usher ends up grabbing J. Lo’s famous gluteus maximus (also known collectively as her bootay). I’m sure in a less constrained audience than ours shock waves and audible eruptions occurred. We of course took it all in stride after our most recent viewing of the 3 hour director’s cut of Midsommar. 

There were a few things I really enjoyed about the film and Scafaria’s writing. The backstage banter of the ladies bemoaning their poor sex lives, lack of meaningful relationships, reliance on “massage” units (vibrators, people!) dealing with jealous boyfriends and rip-off managers all made for believable dialogue. Strippers have everyday problems too, it’s not all makin’ it rain and glitter rainbows.  

However most of the characters get a cursory treatment at best. And although the stakes are raised and raised there never is a true payoff. The film just sputters to a close. Esentially Wu carries Hustlers on her back but luckily for us she is more than up to the task. As a side note, you will also learn about the shady practices and ethics of Russian exotic dancers. This film easily vaulted and spun upside down with one leg hooked over the 6 dollar bar. 

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