The Hustle: A Shameless Scam
The Hustle brings Dirty Rotten Scoundrels back to screen with a gender-swapping twist, trading Steve Martin for Rebel Wilson and Sir Michael Caine for Anne Hathaway. While the unlikely duo of Wilson and Hathaway work relatively well together, the film has little to offer outside of its feminine renovation.
Two female con artists, the brash and free-wheeling Penny (Rebel Wilson) and the cunning and cultured Josephine (Anne Hathaway), compete to swindle a naïve tech prodigy (Alex Sharp) out of his fortune.
The Hustle becomes unbearable almost immediately, and it never finds a way to recover. It lacks any nuance or charm, presenting the audience with obnoxiously loud and loathsome characters doing incredibly uninspired and humorless things for 93-minutes. It goes through the motions at every turn, and even has the opportunity to deliver an interesting moral message, but it finds a way to incompetently undercut that too, culminating in an overall vapid experience.
For a con film, it’s funny, only in the sense that it doesn’t seem to know the cards it holds in its own hand. It doesn’t seem to realize the potential of its actresses or its material, and it turns in a final product that could have been so much more. We’ve known for quite sometime that Hollywood has been running out of ideas and trying to milk every dollar out of what little they have, but what The Hustle makes painfully obvious is that they no longer know how to entertain us while they slip the money out from our pockets.
What makes Frank Oz’ Dirty Rotten Scoundrels work so well is its chemistry between Caine and Martin, the silly ingenuity of its gags, and its surprise twist, and a big fault in The Hustle’s scheme is that it thinks it can go shot-for-shot without having to add anything new. Because of Dirty Rotten Scoundrels’ twist, it naturally takes on pro-female message when its revealed that the Glenne Headly has been playing the two con artists the whole time. This twist is properly set up — we are aware of another con artist working the area named The Jackal — and it comes as a genuine surprise, adding layers to the characters and the previous events.
However, The Hustle gets all these things wrong. It’s not like Dirty Rotten Scoundrels was a perfect film either, but The Hustle isn’t interested in improving on the past; it only wants to cash in what little it can right now. This certainly shows through every aspect, from the performances to the writing to the direction. Everything is uninspired, and its twist seems shoehorned in without any real set up. They’ve replaced the magical quality of Martin and Caine with the lackluster sparkle of Rebel Wilson and Anne Hathaway, and the solid comedy gags for cheap and lower brow comedy.
It averts doing anything interesting or new at every turn, resulting in nothing more than a shameless scam. It had the opportunity to turn the other cheek, to humanize Rebel Wilson’s character and comment on how not all men are superficial and sex-crazed neanderthals (which is most of the film’s message), but it goes ahead and follows suit pretty much verbatim with Dirty Rotten Scoundrels, not realizing what it says through its actions. It rings hollow, has no real point, and objectively fails at delivering any sense of entertainment. It is nothing more than a vacuous void of laughter-free nothingness, and the actresses and the audience deserved much better.
Recommendation: No, nuh uh, nope. Just watch Dirty Rotten Scoundrels and save yourself the headache.
Rating: 0.5 crotch slams outta 5.
What do you think? Did you like The Hustle more than Dirty Rotten Scoundrels? We want to know. Share your thoughts and feelings in the comments section below, and as always, remember to viddy well!