The Hustle movie review: Anne Hathaway, Rebel Wilson's talent is wasted on an uninspired script
The Hustle, director Chris Addison’s debut film, lavishly endorses its stupidity from the get go
The Hustle, director Chris Addison’s debut film, lavishly endorses its stupidity from the get go. As any B-movie connoisseur will readily admit, that rarely poses an obstacle to enjoying a film. There are copious amounts of slapstick and dumb comedies to go around that don’t set out to exercise your grey cells. But they must make you laugh. The characters can be forgiven for their stupidity, the endless parade of simpleminded decisions, and their utter obliviousness to facts ignored as long as the jokes are funny. The Hustle, despite featuring the talents of Anne Hathaway and Rebel Wilson, fails miserably on that front, thereby ending as a dud.
The Hustle is a reworking of Dirty Rotten Scoundrels, a comedy from the 1980s, only with the genders reversed. Josephine (Hathaway) and Penny (Wilson) are con artists who rob affluent, unsuspecting men—the former accomplished, the latter small-time—whose paths cross in the French Riviera. Josephine, in order to get rid of her immediately, pretends to teach Penny her tricks, which she does like a devoted teacher, only to find themselves suddenly joined at the hip. They decide to see who can con a new mark, Thomas, a young tech billionaire, first to settle the issue and part ways like gentlewomen.
At this juncture, one must mention the French Riviera again, which, alongside Alex Sharp, who plays Thomas, steals the show and keeps you from quitting the film mid-way. Hathaway piles on accent after terrible accent, obviously without being found out, even by a young, gifted, highly intelligent tech entrepreneur. Wilson fares better, although she struggles to rise above a script that seeks to derive laughs from her falling over things (or things falling over her) and fat jokes. But she is believable and mildly charming. Sharp produces the best performance of all, as he invests his Thomas with more meat and empathy than is usually reserved for the stock tech entrepreneurs in commercial films.
The con executed by the girls is forgettable, at best. The slickness of the editing tries hard to mask the script’s failure to conning the audience into believing it. But it remains lifeless, the stakes miserably low and the creators resort to sentimentality and the warmth of the familiar and cliched to extend the runtime of the film. The situation is made worse by an absolute dearth of jokes, the very lifeblood of this kind of film. We were supposed to be having fun, right!
Hathaway and Wilson often exhibit signs of genuinely feeding off each other’s respective talents and uplifting a drearily mounted film. There’s no doubting that Wilson was always going to be the blunt edged counter to Hathaway’s swooning charms. But the stakes are never high enough for them to exercise their dramatic acumen. They stumble from one cliched setup to another and, before long, cave in to script induced fatigue. The individual scenes can pass for mildly entertaining YouTube skits which could have done without professional actors or expensive film equipment. In short, their talent is wasted on a boring script.
The Hustle is a bad comedy and an uninspired con film. One can forgive it for failing to offer anything new, but it doesn’t even attempt to play with the tropes it steals from other films. It meanders lazily through its bland script, offers few laughs and relies heavily on the charisma of its talented cast to render it watchable, thereby failing them.
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