Hustlers (***)

Who would have thought that singer/dancer/actress/ tabloid queen etc. and so on, Jennifer Lopez a/k/a J. Lo, had something worthy left to contribute to the medium of film? Certainly not me and imagine my astonished surprise when I actually found her latest project, Hustlers, a film on which she also shares a producer credit, a worthy addition to her body of work. You’d have to go back nearly twenty years to actually find something on Lopez’s resume, from a quality standpoint at least, that comes close to what Hustlers manages to achieve. That’s not to say it’s a perfect film but it’s certainly a welcome return to form for a talent that held so much promise when she burst on the scene nearly a quarter of a century ago.

Hustlers, we’re informed by a title card at the beginning of the movie, is based on a true story. And indeed it is one of those ripped from the headlines tales that seems to be crying out for a movie adaptation. The story is anchored and narrated by the central character of Dorothy who, in her career as a stripper, went by the onstage moniker of Destiny. Constance Wu, who made a splash in last year’s surprise breakout hit, Crazy Rich Asians, proves she’s more than a one trick pony here and capably fills the shoes of the character, effortlessly hitting every emotional mark along the way.

Dorothy is being interviewed by a reporter (Julia Stiles) at the beginning of the film who wants to get the story from the source. Dorothy recounts in flashback her career as a stripper, her friendship with the career dancer Ramona – Jennifer Lopez, quite good, as previously stated. – and how, in the wake of the 2008 financial crisis, the two became involved in an operation to financially deplete men with money to burn. The moral lines become more and more blurred as time goes on and it’s pretty clear it won’t be long before things spiral out of control. The depiction of how that happens is one of the film’s many joys.

Hustlers is written and directed by Lorene Scafaria, a filmmaker whose 2012 film, Seeking a Friend for the End of the World, remains one of my favorites of this decade. She brings a sense of style and urgency to the proceedings and keeps things moving along at a good clip, proving to be a good match for the material. Add to that the great performances and the film’s excellent technical credits in the editing and cinematography departments and Hustlers turns out to be one of the year’s bigger surprises.

Photo: Constance Wu and Jennifer Lopez in Hustlers

Hustlers is playing everywhere. Questions or comments? [email protected]