Hustlers ★★★★½


What Lorene Scafaria demonstrates with Hustlers is not just a knack for musicality within the realm of the body, but a musicality of transactional processes and the hierarchy of the masculine world. This is a firecracker film that beautifully, expertly captures the occupation of stripping, with its own elements of creation, success and failure, allure and danger, in addition to dissecting how any honest work is lost in a recessed economy. This is no mere 'scam the system' ensemble piece, but a sobering reflection of the advantages that must be exploited in order to survive. It's a very funny work, and yet the overall demeanor is one of rage against reality; women constantly on the defensive until a code is cracked to achieve a self-sustaining utopia, if only for a little while.

At the beginning of the film, Destiny, fabulously played by Constance Wu, is beckoned by a wall-street douchebag by calling her "Lucy Lu", and in order to make money, she must smile and cater to his whim. It's liberating to watch these women embrace their occupation as more than what men decide it to be worth. These are the kind of ideas on Hustlers' mind. Not to mention it's bursting with sharp visual ideas - so many great inserts of hands colliding to complete transactions, whether through money, drugging a drink, or simply hands clasped, as well as balletic steadicam infused with a neon glow - and edited through the rise-and-fall of needle-drops, real-life events, and the escalating anxiety of their perfect world being ripped out from under their feet. Truly a knockout film. Bow to J-Lo and this whole cast and crew.

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