Hustlers movie poster


In theaters September 13, 2019


, ,

109 minutes

Directed by:

Starring: , , , ,

You’re going to have expectations for Hustlers and you’re going to want to set them aside as of right now. Yes, there are exotic dancers and topless jiggling, but this story is more than salacious oogling and swears.

Destiny (Constance Wu) is a struggling stripper who’s not very good at her job. Who knew that dancing for men required talent? She meets Ramona (Jennifer Lopez), a star on the circuit and swimming in the green Destiny believes she so desperately needs to be happy. Ramona is exuberant and exciting and has all of the moves to make men empty their wallets onto the stage. During a rooftop discussion, they become BFFs, and Ramona shows Destiny all of her greatest hits, creating a tag-team spot and release dynamic that has them both rolling in the readies. After the Wall Street crash of 2008, they have to re-evaluate their business plan, dipping into larceny and assault to maintain the lifestyle to which they’ve become accustomed. Tapping Mercedes (Keke Palmer) and Annabelle (Lili Reinhart) as bait in their wide whale net, Hustlers highlights the dizzying highs and slight lows that come from life as an exotic dancer – minus the drug use and prostitution so often highlighted in movies featuring dancers.

Ramona is the ringleader with the big ideas and Destiny cooks the dope and tracks the marks. Mercedes and Annabelle reel in the big fish. Even stripper club Mother (Mercedes Ruehl) gets a cut training new employees in the finer arts of fake drinking. It’s a family dynamic of adult entertainment not often seen in such a positive light. Of course, there is jealousy, mistrust, and doubt, but it never comes to violent blows, as you might see in movies where the players aren’t so friendly.

Hustlers is told in flashback to reporter Elizabeth (Julia Stiles) some years later in scenes that appear jarring and disconnected from the main narrative. Destiny looks comfortable and collected and expensive, but we’re never told exactly how she gets to that point because if there’s one thing we learn it’s that strippers are lousy with financial planning. For all of the money they made, banking the Benjamins for a rainy day never occurred to anyone. Destiny is portrayed as near destitute, living with her grandmother (Wai Ching Ho) and after the crash with the club unable to sustain so many dancers, even working retail is unattainable.

The strip club scenes are incredible. Jennifer Lopez does her own dancing, training for months on the pole for that authentic feel. Cameos by Cardi B (she’s only on screen for a handful of minutes), Lizzo, and Usher give it a never-ending party feel. All of the dancers’ scenes are energetic and vibrant without being salacious or pandering, and they’re early on so as not to be the point of Hustlers. Yes, it’s about strippers but the focus is on the friendship and deteriorating morality that comes from desperate times by desperate women. As an aside, I took a pole dancing class a few years back and I gotta tell you, it’s a serious cardio workout and hanging off a metal pole by the skin on your thighs is no joke.

Hustlers is a story of women doing what women with limited power do – consolidate and maximize that power into a source of opportunity. It’s not a feminist scree by any stretch, but the business of sex and money has always been in the hands of women. Based on an article written for New York Magazine by Jessica Pressler as told by Roselyn Keo, Hustlers is a romanticized Robin Hood tale for the modern Sherwood Forest of New York. Ramona and her gang robbing from the rich wall street men and giving to themselves, those made poor by Wall Street’s reckless gambling. We can’t be mad about how they climbed to the top (illegal and potentially fatal) because we didn’t think of it first. The payoff is worth the glitz and the spectacle.

Hustlers is Rated R for swears (a lot from Cardi B), lap dancing, boobs, amazing, athletic pole dancing, drug sniffing, drug drinking, lots of regular drinking, and nervous vomiting.

Hustlers is streaming now on the following services:
Movie Reelist Contributor: MontiLee Stormer
MontiLee Stormer is a writer of horror, dark and urban fantasy. She’s also is a troublemaker, concocting acts of mayhem and despair for her own selfish pleasure. An avid movie watcher, she prefers horror but will see just about anything if you're buying. Poltergeist (1982) is her favorite movie and she actively hates The Shining (1980) due to its racism, misogyny, the butchering of the source material. She could host a TEDtalk on this single subject. Writing about herself in the third person is just a bonus.

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