Film Review: The Hustle (2019)

The last few years has seen the emergence of the gender-swap remake, making losers in basements all riled up because WOMEN CAN’T BUST GHOSTS, apparently. But while Ghostbusters and Ocean’s 8 were entertaining and showed off what women can do without the help of a man, Chris Addison’s The Hustle, based on Frank Oz’s 1988 film, Dirty Rotten Scoundrels (which in turn was based on Ralph Levy’s 1964 film, Bedtime Story), is a pointless exercise.

Penny (Rebel Wilson) is a small-time con artist, scamming foolish men a few hundred dollars in simple catfishing schemes. When she seeks bigger bucks on the French Riviera, high-scale con artist, Josephine (Anne Hathaway), attempts to get her out of the country. Not to be out-played, Penny, after realising Josephine’s game, suggests they team up. After a short-lived pairing on a scam named ‘Lord of the Rings’, they make a bet with one another, and set out to scam a tech billionaire (Alex Sharp).

In the Steve Martin role, Rebel Wilson gets stuck with the slapstick gags, fat jibes, ugly clothes, and mediocre one-liners. Her schtick wears thin here, but she’s working with weak material by screenwriter Jac Schaeffer. (Or is it Bedtime Story‘s Dale Launer, who also gets a screenwriting credit because that is how original the screenplay is). Meanwhile, Anne Hathaway, as the Michael Caine equivalent, tries her hardest to sound like a posh Brit, turning in what is her worst performance since she hosted the Oscars with James Franco.

The jokes produce next to no laughs, making one long for at least a reasonable plot and a good twist. But other than the sexes being reversed, there is nothing new added to the 1988 storyline. The finale is the biggest letdown since the Honey Badger chose nobody in the finale of The Bachelor. And it’s probably just as feminist, which is to say not at all. Those hoping for a “WOO! Women get the job DONE!” fist pump will be left wanting.

Highlights of the film include a handful of Hathaway’s costumes, some attractive set pieces (with the film shot in Majorca), and a soundtrack featuring a couple of Meghan Trainor tracks. The opening notes of the film hinted at a fun chick flick to pass the time, and not the reality of the situation, which was having to watch something that makes lawn bowls seem exciting.

In addition to not being particularly funny and adding nothing new to the source material, The Hustle manages to make a mockery of fat people, the blind, not to mention the institution of cinema itself. The biggest victims of The Hustle are without a doubt the audience. Don’t fall for the bait. Keep your money.

The Hustle is in cinemas from 8th May through Universal Pictures.

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