Rules of deception
Review: The Hustle
(M) Anne Hathaway, Rebel Wilson, Alex Sharp, Tim Blake Nelson, Ingrid Oliver.
An unlikely scam artist duo who team up to dupe rich men for millions, a ruse that quickly turns into a turf war tied up in comedy and a bit of romance. Watching all the way through, the film proved to be a somewhat pleasant surprise, a warning to not underestimate anyone and an intriguing look at deception.
That was before I found out it was a gender-swapped remake of the 1988 Dirty Rotten Scoundrels, which scrubbed any original shine The Hustle and its cast seemed to capture. Surely there is original film ideas with strong female leads, why not pave a new lane? Until Hollywood decides that we deserve better, expect more gender-swapped remakes that we didn’t ask for like The Hustle.
In this remake, Rebel Wilson (Pitch Perfect) is Lonnie a low end scammer who cross paths with high class counterpart Josephine played by Anne Hathaway (Ocean’s 8). The con-women quickly become the dynamic and expert duo that is until they enter wager of who can scam the tech billionaire Thomas (Alex Sharp) first.
The two actresses work well together both lugging the weight of the film with their own unique twist. The Hustle doesn’t take is self seriously calling out aspects of the film that just weren’t working, like Anne Hathaway’s dodgy British accent. Though predictable Wilson’s limited acting and comedy repertoire works and at times elicits genuine laughs from the audience. The overall comedy of the film has its hits and misses, the latter is when the cast resorts to raunchy jokes and jabs that are really a by-product of a lazy script.
What is interesting about The Hustle’s storyline is that it amplifies the flaw of the human condition of deception. In one sense the film shows what could come out of a well-thought out con, diamonds, high end art and a luxurious home in the South of France. Just as readily as the ‘rewards’ appear so does the glimpses, of loneliness, insecurities and the less subtle slapstick retribution for the offenders like Wilson’s character Lonnie who fakes a disability in order to win the wager.
It also comments on how we seem to accept the scenarios played out onscreen because those who are scammed seem self-absorbed and spend excessively at the drop of the hat. But do their inherent selfish inclinations really warrant the exploitation they are subjected to?
For Chris Addison feature film directorial debut, The Hustle is a mid-range film and if the lack of creativity that can shadow remakes doesn’t bog you down, then it could be a fun escape.