Inspired by a 2015 New York Magazine article, Hustlers is a gritty story of how a group of strippers at a New York high-end men’s club took half of Wall Street for a ride. Set between 2007 and 2014, the focus falls on newcomer Destiny (Crazy Rich Asians’ Constance Wu) as she’s taken under the wing of club legend Ramona (Jennifer Lopez), who teaches her to “drain the clock, not the cock”.
While Destiny is soon making more money “than a brain surgeon”, the 2008 economic crash changes everything. As the high-rollers stop coming, the girls are reduced to seducing wealthy types in bars. With fellow dancers Annabelle (Lili Reinhart) and Mercedes (Keke Palmer), Destiny and Ramona drug their marks and bring them to the club, fleecing their credit cards.
Using Destiny’s interview by journalist Elizabeth (Julia Stiles) as a framing device, writer-director Lorene Scafaria goes full Scorsese, with a Casino-style voiceover guiding us through the ins and outs of the strip-club business. Seasoned with humour – notably when Usher, playing himself, turns up and the girls go wild – it’s an engrossing tale for the post-#MeToo generation.
With juicy cameos from singers Cardi B and Lizzo, the vibrant cast is spearheaded by the excellent Wu and J-Lo, who hasn’t been this good since Out Of Sight. What really intrigues, though, is the way that Scafaria paints Hustlers’ world as a microcosm for a cash-crazy America. As Ramona bluntly says, “This whole country is a strip club.”