Watch this as soon as you can…
Hearing Jennifer Lopez is starring a film has never been a signpost for cinematic quality. Perhaps that will change after the release of her new film, Hustlers, for which she also has a production credit. It is perfectly paced and the editing is impeccably timed, which, along with memorable performances, brings a well-written screenplay to life.
The editing is superb and the pacing is expertly controlled. This film has the swift whistle stop tour journey through corruption, crime and corruption you would expect from a Scorsese movie. Sometimes the cuts come quick and fast, depicting money exchanges and bank transactions. Sometimes the cuts are much longer, with shots tracking the main characters as they stride through their corrupt worlds. Hustlers oscillates between fast and slow effortlessly and it always feels organic. The pacing is masterful. Are we sure Scorsese was not involved?
The dialogue is also Scorsese-level good. It is sharp, scathing and insightful. Immensely quotable too. Some highlights include “this whole country is a strip club” and “hurt people hurt people”. Lorene Scafaria’s screenplay really has something to say and it compels you to listen. Telling the story of a group of strippers who begin amassing huge amounts of wealth by drugging stock traders and CEOS who visit their club, the screenplay and dialogue really capture the moral ambiguities of this true story. Yes, they are stealing, but the people they are stealing from are hardly saints: “they stole from everybody” and caused the 2008 Financial Crash, yet “not one went to jail”, Jennifer Lopez’ Ramona. The film never fully endorses the stripper’s behaviour as Robin Hood like either, with Constance Wu’s Destiny claiming she should “still feel sorry” for those she has stolen from. It is a morally complex situation in which nobody is one hundred per cent right nor one hundred per cent wrong, and the screenplay is more than up to the task of capturing these ambiguities.
A film is more than just a screenplay, though, and Hustlers would not be such a grand success without such impressive performances. Jennifer Lopez oozes with experience, wisdom and confidence in her performance as Ramona. This is the best performance she has ever given as she portrays Ramona as a convincingly powerful leader. Constance Wu does a wonderful job as the foil to Ramona, Destiny. Pure and innocent, and less world weary, Destiny is everything Ramona is not. The two make for an excellent pairing. Even cameo performances from Cardi B and Lizzo surprise and dazzle, and live up to the high calibre of acting from the rest of the cast. The performances really bring an already brilliant screenplay to life.
If you enjoyed The Wolf of Wall Street, then you will enjoy this film. Everything from the world-weary but surgical dialogue, to the skilfully controlled pacing to a surprisingly outstanding cast suggests that this is a Scorsese film. It is not, by the way. Lorene Scarfaria wrote and directed it. Scarfaria really has something to say with this movie and it deserves to be heard.