Jennifer Lopez steals the show as a veteran stripper in comedy drama Hustlers

Constance Wu and Jennifer Lopez work hard for the money in the crime caper Hustlers

Lili Reinhart, Jennifer Lopez, Keke Palmer and Constance Wu in Hustlers
Damon Smith

DEPENDING on how much of the promotional material you may have seen, Hustlers could be a very different beast from the film you were expecting.

Anyone who had watched the trailer could be forgiven for thinking it is a just another heist movie or run-of-the-mill comedy.

While Hustlers certainly has those elements, at its core it is a story about female friendships and what is permissible for women to do to get ahead in a man's world.

It is far more a drama than comedy and one particularly moving scene towards the end could have you reaching for a tissue.

Loosely based on a true story, Hustlers follows a group of New York City strippers who resort to ripping off their clients after falling on hard times in the wake of the 2008 financial crash.

The film boasts a star-studded cast, with Crazy Rich Asians actress Constance Wu playing struggling single mother Dorothy, who strips under the name Destiny.

Jennifer Lopez steals the show as veteran dancer Ramona Vega, who takes Destiny under her wing and eventually lures her into a life of crime.

Former child star Keke Palmer and Riverdale's Lili Reinhart take supporting roles while Cardi B's much-publicised involvement is in fact an all-too-brief cameo, though a typically colourful one.

Similarly, pop star Lizzo is a fleeting but memorable presence.

Hustlers' central narrative focuses on the relationship between Lopez (50) and Wu (37).

Lopez, playing a maternal figure, showcases the many strings to her bow. She is equally at home showing off her impressively toned body while dancing on a pole as she is having a heart-to-heart with the young women who look up to her.

Wu also puts in a strong performance, convincing as the hard-up mother prepared to go to extreme lengths to provide for her daughter.

The story is told through flashback, with Julia Stiles – perhaps best known for her role in 1999 teen romance 10 Things I Hate About You – starring as a journalist interviewing Wu about her past as a hustler.

Lorene Scafaria, who wrote the script and directed the film, begins by framing the strippers as Robin Hood-type characters, robbing the undeservedly rich bankers of Wall Street.

However, viewers are forced to question the morality of Lopez and co when they start ripping off men who may not be so one-dimensional.

Wu's character suffers a crisis of conscience when the gang empty the bank account of a kind-hearted architect.

Having said that, the viewer is left with the feeling that, while these are women doing bad things, they're not necessarily bad women.

All in all, Hustlers' strong script combined with the memorable performances of Wu and Lopez make for a film well worth watching.

Rating: 7/10

HUSTLERS (15, 110 mins) Comedy/Drama/Thriller. Constance Wu, Jennifer Lopez, Cardi B, Keke Palmer, Lili Reinhart, Lizzo, Julia Stiles, Mercedes Ruehl, Trace Lysette. Director: Lorene Scafaria.

Released: September 13

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