Hustlers is an empathetic and entertaining film, as well as an engrossing revamp on stories about “movers and shakers”.

Using a split narrative and boldly entrusting the audience to form their own opinions for the most part, writer/director Lorene Scafaria (Seeking a Friend for the End of the World) pitches a loosely biographical crime drama about a secret ring of exotic dancers who extorted customers out of money.  But leading up to those details, Scafaria offers insight into the private lives of these performers.

Like most movies about scheming working-class citizens, Hustlers is about how desperate decisions can be driven by discrimination.  The film does a very good job at building up its characters by establishing their varying loyalty to their job.  Dorothy (Constance Wu) feels defeated by demeaning clients, but she sticks to the stage because the paycheque helps support her ailing grandmother.  However, her perspective is revived when she meets Ramona (Jennifer Lopez), a seasoned dancer who understands how to handle the difficulties of customers and willingly offers Dorothy advice.  These introductions lead to charismatic exchanges, and help the film warm up to audiences; though some supporting characters don’t get as much time as they deserve (musicians Cardi B and Lizzo have funny roles that should’ve been showcased more).

When the global financial crisis of the late-2000s effects the story, the film swings to a more serious tone as Ramona devises a lucrative plan to help with cash flow while getting even with apathetic clients.  However, Lorene Scafaria continues to maintain the stylized flash of her film.  The choice to stay stylistically consistent, while risky, is a good choice since it helps assist with the seamless transitions towards heavier moments and consequences. 

Also, by doing this, Scafaria doesn’t spoon-feed moral decisions nor does she dismiss any of the actions carried out by her leads.  The filmmaker finds an excellent balance between understanding the needs and desires of these characters, while also comprehending their imperfections.


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