Based on a real case from 2008, Hustlers follows a group of New York strippers (including Jennifer Lopez, Constance Wu and Scream Queens‘ Keke Palmer) who withstand the financial crisis by ripping off men after spiking their drinks with MDMA and ketamine, CeeLo Green style.
Produced by Adam McKay, this misguided crime comedy attempts to do The Big Short from the point of view of some strippers, which sounds quite fun. And it’s entertaining enough in its opening, pre-financial crash scenes when the champagne is flowing, J.Lo is pole dancing and Usher even swings by the strip club, presumably to direct people to their seats. Then the dancers start drugging people and the movie keeps making excuses for them because they’re women. Imagine someone making a comedy about some loveable men spiking women’s drinks. You’ve just imagined Entourage.
I say loveable because the film wants us to like them. And I wanted to like them. But how can we when their selection of marks seems largely indiscriminate, assuming the blokes all work on Wall Street so that makes them fair game. Who wrote this, Momentum? Ironically that’s one thing the story doesn’t have, flitting aimlessly between insipid scenes of shopping and comedy sequences where victims are knocked unconscious. Did I mention this was produced by Adam McKay?
It’s his glib treatment of true events that leaves such a chalky aftertaste, glamourising crime in a manner Monster and Widows so skilfully avoided. For all its busty banker bashing, the movie is brazenly materialistic and Showgirls shallow, not to mention as unfunny as the phrase “running joke about vomiting” would imply. One thing that does warrant praise is 50-year-old J.Lo pole dancing, the most impressive act of athleticism I’ve seen since Sir Ian McKellen got in that box. Everything else is about as empowering as licking a battery.