The plot follows Destiny, played by Constance Wu, a high school drop-out who makes money lap dancing and occasionally pole dancing, though her shyness does not help her make big bucks. Luckily for her, the formidable Ramona (Jennifer Lopez) takes Destiny under her wing, teaching her all the hottest moves for the pole and for her rich clients.
The pair even start dancing together to entice richer clients, before the 2008 crash leaves them and their stripper friends totally destitute and forced to work in menial roles to earn enough cash to feed their families.
Soon, Destiny becomes engulfed in a life she had not planned as she, Ramona and their crew turn their lap dancing skills into a lucrative hustle which tests their moral boundaries as they work outside of the law.
Ramona is the perfect lead to Destiny’s naive girl – and Destiny looks up to her as almost a mother figure as she grapples with her own parents abandoning her when she was a child, a theme which comes up a number of times in the film.
The structure of Hustlers is different to the usual heist drama, as we flit between the strippers taking the city by storm and an older, embittered Destiny who is recounting her time with the gang to journalist Elizabeth (Julia Stiles.)
With the story based on a New York magazine article, it makes sense the journalist is seen here, as she tries to piece together a story where people’s perceptions are conflicting and still raw with emotion.
Constance Wu perfectly captures the young, naive stripper whose youthful innocence hardens as she learns more about the world, while Jennifer Lopez’s loyal, fierce Ramona is her best role yet.
J-Lo really gets her teeth into this character, giving her a lot more to work with than her usual rom-com fare.
Keke Palmer and Lili Reinhart bring levity to a dramatic piece, with Mercedes refusing to leave her convict waste of a boyfriend, while Annabelle struggles so much with the moral dilemma of their actions she is left gagging and vomiting in a corner when things go wrong.
While the subject matter and performances in the film are really strong from all the cast, the film feels long – despite only lasting an economical 110 minutes.
This mainly is down to the direction, as some moments, like a Christmas scene with the strippers spending their hard-stolen cash, very much belonged on the cutting room floor – or at least part of it did.
Similarly, as J-Lo’s character walks towards an ATM machine, her short stroll feels like a century with a rather overbearing soundtrack blaring through the speakers.
Cardi B and Lizzo are barely used, though the film really isn’t about them, but about the relationship between Destiny and Ramona, so their presence is not particularly missed.
Overall, the film is slick and well shot, feeling more like an indie drama than an Adam McKay film (despite his credit as a producer).
It certainly evokes films like Magic Mike, which showed all the non-glamour of stripping and the pressures that come with it, but Hustlers sadly does not pack the emotional punch of that film, despite good performances from most of the cast.
But really, with such a good cast and interesting story, there needed to be some more discipline in the editing to make this pop off the screen (like one of the ladies popped all over their poles.)
Hustlers is in cinemas from September 13