Directed by Lorene Scafaria
Starring Constance Wu, Jennifer Lopez and Julia Stiles
By Tim Basaraba
I haven’t seen Hustlers’ director Lorene Scafaria’s first two films, Seeking a Friend for the End of the World (2012) and The Meddler (2015), but it looks like I need to.
With her latest offering, Hustlers, the New Jersey native uses 2008’s financial collapse to mirror the moral decline of a couple of “good gals” played by Constance Wu and Jennifer Lopez to deliver a modern take on the crime drama.
Like Scorsese’s Goodfellas, Hustlers uses the entire first act to build a rock-solid character foundation. Instead of starry-eyed Henry Hill (Ray Liotta) and paternal mentor Jimmy Conway (Robert Deniro), we have starry-eyed Destiny (Constance Wu) and nurturing mentor Ramona (Jennifer Lopez).
An extremely well-acted story unfolds in the final two acts. Wu sells her character’s motivations and story arc convincingly and Lopez gives her best performance since 1998’s Out of Sight in a roll custom-made for an Alpha Female. Her take on Ramona delivers a mixture of parental virtuosity and brutal ruthlessness, like a mother grizzly in the wild.
As with all films “inspired by true events,” Hustlers casts doubts about what actually happened and which details can be accredited to Hollywood’s cinematic license, but, like with Goodfellas, I didn’t care. When the credits rolled, I wanted more.
If Goodfellas is a A then Hustlers is a solid B.