By Mark Saldana

Rating: 3 (Out of 4 Stars)

Loosely based on the New York magazine article by Jessica Pressler, The Hustlers at Scores, Hustlers the film follows an all too familiar formula when it comes to a true crime story. To its benefit, though, the story is an interesting one, and one that keeps its audience invested through the outstanding performances by lead actors Constance Wu and Jennifer Lopez. So even though the film has a certain amount of predictability, there are a few surprises and enough heart and passion by the leads to keep this otherwise formulaic feature from completely sinking into oblivion.

Constance Wu stars as Dorothy, a down on her luck single woman trying to make ends meet and care for her elderly grandmother by working nights as a stripper. Though initially out of her element, Dorothy eventually discovers the path to success under the guidance of veteran stripper Ramona (Jennifer Lopez). Once they form a partnership, the two manage to score major green off of their wealthy Wall Street patrons. However, a financial crisis and an unexpected curve ball in Dorothy’s life forces her to take a temporary leave of absence.

Upon her return she finds her beloved club a lot less lucrative and a lot more sordid. Ramona is still working, but not making the same amount of money she had previously. Rather than crossing over into prostitution, Ramona and Dorothy hatch a plan where they scam and steal from wealthy Wall Street customers. But like most crime stories, there is a limit to how far they can go.

Written and directed by Lorene Scafaria, Hustlers thrives and intrigues through its character development, but plays it a little too safely to be thoroughly compelling. Scafaria’s script may be formulaic, but her realization of her lead characters succeed in keeping its audience engaged with its familar path. As I previously stated, this film owes much of its impact to the excellent performances of Constace Wu and Jennifer Lopez who give this movie the heart it surely needs.

Wu, who certainly impressed me with her stellar performance in Crazy Rich Asians, once again shines brightly and passionately as Dorothy. Jennifer Lopez, who has had her share of uninteresting roles, shows real star power and range as Ramona, a woman driven by the lure of money and the need to provide a better life for her child. The two lead actresses share a wonderful chemistry and credibly portray friends/”business” partners. The film also can boast great turns by Keke Palmer, Madeline Brewer, and Lili Reinhardt. Popular rapper/singer/actor Cardi B. adds some colorful entertainment as stripper Diamond, but doesn’t have enough screen time to make a huge impact.

This is one of those movies which can be enjoyed on the big screen, but doesn’t necessarily have to get experienced that way. My recommendation is if one feels so compelled to run out and see it, I would only recommend spending matinee prices. Otherwise, Hustlers will do just fine in the comfort of one’s home.

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