‘The Hustle’ cons the audience out of a good movie

Christian Black/Metro Goldwyn Mayer Pictures via AP
This image released by Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer Pictures shows Anne Hathaway as Josephine Chesterfield, left, and Rebel Wilson as Penny Rust, in a scene from "The Hustle."

Movie review

By Kaylee Brewster

Two and a half out of Four

A good movie is like pulling off the perfect con.

You have to know your mark, tell a convincing story and play the part well so the target doesn’t see what’s coming.

“The Hustle” doesn’t quite pull it off.

The film is a remake of the 1988 comedy “Dirty Rotten Scoundrels,” with Steve Martin and Michael Caine, with a gender twist starring women in the lead roles.

The story remains much the same. Penny (Rebel Wilson) is a small-time grifter hustling men out of a couple hundred bucks. She has no greater aspirations, until she meets Josephine (Anne Hathaway), a con artist with the savvy, skills and sex appeal to take millions from unsuspecting men. Josephine is forced to take Penny under her wing and show her the ropes of the big time. However, it doesn’t take long for them to go after a mark in an all-out bet to see who’s the best.

Hathaway and Wilson are perfectly cast. Wilson captures Penny’s laid-back style, and Hathaway exudes a lavish lifestyle. Together they make the perfect pair, bringing in the laughs with their back-and-forth dialogue and slapstick schtick.

“The Hustle” has its mark, an audience that wants a convincing con artist story, but this is a con the audience can see a mile away, or at least any viewer who has seen “Dirty Rotten Scoundrels.” Here’s where the film falls completely flat: For a remake like this to work, it has to have enough elements from the original to make it a remake but it must also diverge from the source material enough so that it’s not the exact same plot, just with women.

Think “Ocean’s 8,” which was an “Ocean’s 11,” spin-off film about a group of thieves that pull off a heist. In the case of “Ocean’s 8,” it’s female thieves, but you get a different movie that’s still full of surprises.

“The Hustle” follows “Dirty Rotten Scoundrels” so closely there are no unexpected turns up to the final moments. If you think you’re getting a different story, you’re only conning yourself. Ultimately, “The Hustle” is a huge disappointment that does a disservice to the audience as well as Hathaway and Wilson, who deserve a better story.

If “The Hustle” was judged on its own merit, it could stand up against the scrutiny, but audiences won’t be falling for this con. If you’re going to tell a story about con artists, you have to come up with some new surprises; this film doesn’t.


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