The Hustle, 2019.
Directed by Chris Addison.
Starring Rebel Wilson, Anne Hathaway, Tim Blake Nelson, Alex Sharp, Ingrid Oliver, and Emma Davies.
Anne Hathaway and Rebel Wilson star as female scam artists, one low rent and the other high class, who team up to take down the men who have wronged them.
The Hustle is a misguided disaster with no spark between its two rival con artists played by Anne Hathaway and Rebel Wilson (both of which come from different comedic backgrounds playing characters coming from opposing social classes to, in theory, maximize on the potential of that dichotomy) and a lazily constructed narrative that re-creates every single plot point from Dirty Rotten Scoundrels without taking one single second to think if a beat for beat remake is the way to tell this story as a form of women’s empowerment. It’s also possible they weren’t going for feminism considering the extremities of the rehash job, but whatever the case may be, The Hustle is anything but funny.
The setting is still a seaside French town and the story still focuses on scammers from the rich and the poor, but this time around it’s manipulative and or abusive men that are being swindled (whether it be having their prized possessions stolen or low game catfishing to break the hearts of physical appearance obsessed horndogs). Bluntly put, what’s here just doesn’t work; the filmmaking team of director Chris Addison and writer Jac Schaeffer is unable to make any of this fun or likable. If anything, it takes itself too seriously from a narrative perspective, while being presented as a slapstick atrocity when it comes to actual jokes.
That’s not to say the humor of the original was sophisticated, but The Hustle seems content exploiting Rebel Wilson in embarrassing ways, ranging from sexual gags on planes to crudely implemented ugly jokes. Having the worst luck, I was still around by the time the credits finished, only to catch a removed scene that was not only in poor taste, but also so aimlessly conceived, mercilessly long, and dry (despite Rebel Wilson giving the lines all of her energy, as par for the course with the talented actor), that it should be placed at the front of the movie without context just so people know what they’re getting into and can decide if they want to leave immediately. Although, before the movie began there was a promotional video where the stars promised to refund anyone that didn’t laugh, and honestly I should be chasing them down on that offer instead of writing this review.
For clarification, knowing the plot of Dirty Rotten Scoundrels has nothing to do with not enjoying The Hustle; one of these movies has charismatic characters and sequences while the other sets up the most elaborate jokes for minutes on end that go nowhere, suffocating the life out of an auditorium from boredom. I saw this movie only a few hours ago from writing this and I already remember essentially nothing. The leads are unlikable, which is fine, but we never feel included in the fun of their games. Even when they inevitably go against one another to see who can scam a tech billionaire (Alex Sharp), we get more of the same lame toilet humor.
Without spoiling anything, there are also aspects of flipping the script that actually feel regressive for women. It’s fine to remake films with a female presence and especially an empowering mission statement, but just swapping out genders for every character is not going to result in an experience that works for the opposite sex. And the same applies to the reverse of this scenario if for whatever reason that happens. There’s also the fact that the original probably hasn’t aged well to fit the mold of what’s acceptable in modern society, so making literally the same movie is not going to correct anything.
Pushing all of this aside, The Hustle is mainly atrocious because it couldn’t generate one laugh out of me, and I sincerely doubt anyone will feel differently. Anne Hathaway and Rebel Wilson sell their fake personalities well, but the material is shockingly bad and gives them no room to be funny. As far as I’m concerned, this is the worst movie of the year; just an insufferable viewing that I drifted in and out of consciously watching due to its bludgeoning dullness,
Flickering Myth Rating – Film: ★ / Movie: ★
Robert Kojder is a member of the Chicago Film Critics Association and the Flickering Myth Reviews Editor. Check here for new reviews, friend me on Facebook, follow my Twitter or Letterboxd, check out my personal non-Flickering Myth affiliated Patreon, or email me at MetalGearSolid719@gmail.com