‘Hustlers’ Review: Objectifies Hot Chicks Who Are Totally Dependent on Men

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Barbara Nitke/STX Financing, LLC.

Anyone purchasing a ticket to writer-director Lorene Scafaria’s Hustlers expecting to see a female empowerment flick should demand their money back. This is a movie solely driven by the objectification of the female body and a bunch of truly pathetic women obsessed with and totally dependent on men.

Before we go any further, Hustlers is a pretty good movie — a Goodfellas-ette presented with energy and style in front of a soundtrack pumping with hits. From what I’ve read, Martin Scorsese looked at bringing this true story to life, and you can see why. One can only wonder what that might have looked like, but what we get is fairly engrossing and sexy, even if it is forgettable.

Without question, Jennifer Lopez saves the movie. Her charisma, womanly beauty, and screen presence elevate what could have been a Scorsese-direct-to-video knock-off into a stunning star turn. She’s everything a movie star should be: larger-than-life, oozing charisma, and so beautiful she hardly seems real.

Lopez plays Ramona, the Jimmy Conway to Constance Wu’s Henry Hill. In other words, like Robert De Niro in Goodfellas, Lopez is not the star-star. That title belongs to Wu, who plays Dorothy/Destiny, the ingénue stripper looking for a mentor. After Ramona takes her under wing (almost literally — it’s a fur coat), we are off.

Hustlers is based on Jessica Pressler’s “The Hustlers at Scores,” and tells the story of how,  under Ramona’s tutelage, Destiny rises into a world-class, Manhattan-based stripper, a skill-set that includes knowing how to manipulate the customers every bit as well as the pole.

And for a while,  life is good. Everything is legal. Everyone is flush. The good times abruptly end with the 2008 financial crash.

But not for long.

Always looking for a way to separate wealthy and shallow men from their money, Ramona comes up with another perfectly legal but deceptive hustle, where the girls pose as professional Wall Street executives enjoying an after-hours drink. Here the hunt is on for a whale —  expensive shoes and a wedding ring —  they can lure to a strip club where the foursome takes a cut of whatever they can get the sucker to charge on his American Express Black Card.

Soon this isn’t enough. Ramona and Destiny get greedy and decide to drug the guys. The mixture poured into the unsuspecting sap’s drink will make them open to suggestion (“What’s your pin number, baby?”) and wipe out their memory of maxing out a $50,000 credit line.

Of course, the movie says this is okay, because 1) these assholes are married, 2) they’re the very thieves who crashed our economy without ever paying a price, and 3) did I mention they’re assholes?

All of which is true, but the idea that this is some sort of you-go-girl, female empowerment movie is ridiculous.

For years feminists have complained about movies where the women have no agency (whatever that means), where the woman’s emotional life revolves around supporting a man, wanting a man, chasing a man, waiting for a man, thinking about a man, or being dependent on a man. They also  complain about objectification and being portrayed as man-hating harpies.

Well, I’m here to tell you that Hustlers looks like something written and directed by someone named Male Chauvinist Pig.

This is a story about gold diggers obsessed with men, about man-hating harpies dependent on men and their money; these are women who use their bodies (not brains) to exploit themselves a whole lot more than they exploit their marks.

I guess someone might argue it takes skill and savvy to hustle these guys — come on, really? That’s like admiring the skills of rapists who slip women roofies. There’s nothing smart about this hustle — especially when you look like Jennifer Lopez. Perfectly sober, if she knocked on my front door right now, I’d hand her my pink slip.

Outside of their looks, these women are so pathetic and below average that when they can’t use sex and drugs, they work as retail clerks.

Worse still, could there be a more insulting cliché about the shallowness of women than montage after montage of these dipshits squandering it all on designer purses, designer shoes, corner apartments, and chinchilla coats? These are the worst investments on the planet, junk with no resale value whatsoever. Not one of these ditzy broads saves for the lean years, opens her own business, or invests in a future that doesn’t force her to shake it for a guy.

Where’s the discipline?

Where’s the strength?

Where’s the independence?

Where’s the pride?

Thelma and Louise (1991),  Nine to Five (1980), Frida (2004),  Erin Brockovich (2000), Kill Bill (2003), A League of Their Own (1992),  Bad Girls (1994),  Gas, Food, Lodging (1992), Norma Rae (1974), even the  Resident Evil franchise — these are feminist movies; stories of women who use something more than their tatas to carve out a piece of the world for themselves, a world that has nothing to do with men. These are strong, independent, talented, shrewd, and yes  — empowered women who self-actualize into someone who no longer needs men and their money.

Hustlers is not about female empowerment. In fact, it’s not really about anything other than revenge and designer porn. And it’s this lack of a substantive theme that makes Hustlers so empty.

Goodfellas is actually about something huge and universal, about people choosing to live their own lives in their own way, choosing to live by a code outside the law, about risking their lives to not become nine-to-five slaves like the rest of us.

Even though the behavior of the characters is reprehensible, that’s a theme everyone relates to because it’s about being truly free, about not giving a shit or taking shit. These guys aren’t selling themselves, they’re taking what they want when they want. Their pride might be foolish, but at least they have some.

Hustlers is about shallow and sleazy women shamelessly selling their bodies to terrible  men, about sordid hummers in backrooms, about allowing yourself to be physically and emotionally used and abused for a buck.

Oh, yeah — you’ve come a long way, baby.

Hey, I’m glad I saw Hustlers. It passed the time and a $9.50 investment to shamelessly engage in the objectification of Jennifer Lopez is money well spent. Unfortunately, though, the movie is like that drug she sneaks in your drink: you have a good time and then forget all about it. 

Follow John Nolte on Twitter @NolteNC. Follow his Facebook Page here.

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