R, 94 mins.
2019, R, 94 mins.
Rebel Wilson as Lonnie / Anne Hathaway as Josephine / Tim Blake Nelson as Portnoy / Alex Sharp / Ingrid Oliver as Inspector Desjardins / Emma Davies as Cathy
Directed by Chris Addison / Written by Stanley Shapiro, Paul Henning, Dale Launer and Jac Schaeffer
Announced in 2016, shot in 2017, and then very unceremoniously dumped in cinemas this year, THE HUSTLE is a remake of a remake that's inexcusable in its wretchedness.
comedy - with the latter word being used loosely - is a remake of the
splendid 1988 Steve Martin and Michael Caine classic DIRTY ROTTEN
SCOUNDRELS, which, in turn, was adapted from the Marlon Brando and David
Niven headlined 1964 film BEDTIME STORY.
The most obvious difference with this latest iteration of the story
is the gender reversal of the main characters, but beyond that this Chris
Addison directed update offers very little - if any - substantial reason
to invest in it.
This new version not only drops the ball at being a potentially compelling
commentary on male/female power dynamics in the MeToo era, but it simply
fails at being a decent remake and a funny comedy, leaving audiences
feeling completely swindled while leaving the cinema post screening.
I must confess
that DIRTY ROTTEN SCOUNDRELS remains one of my favorite comedies of the
80s, which leaves me in a bit of a protectionist stance about any efforts
to remake its narrative arc yet again.
THE HUSTLE has - last I checked - four credited screenwriters, yet
their collective services were unable to muster a remake here that at
least pays homage to the Frank Oz '88 endeavor while taking it in fresh
new directions (that, at the very least, should be the benchmark for all
movie remakes to succeed).
Aside from switching the two main con artists from men to women,
THE HUSTLE is a lazily plagiaristic appropriation of DIRTY ROTTEN
SCOUNDRELS, right down to basic plot beats and revelations, shocking
twists, and even gags and pratfalls.
If you have even a fleeting familiarity with Oz's film then
virtually nothing in THE HUSTLE will come as any level of surprise for
good for a remake to inject a few new elements here and there, but
when one is just going to sluggishly rely on the storytelling particulars and
scenes from the film that influenced it...then what's really the point?
That, and stars
Anne Hathaway and Rebel Wilson mightily struggle with having the same
deliciously screwball comic energy and chemistry that Caine and Martin had
well before them.
Hathaway - sporting a ridiculously phony British accent to the
point of inspiring audible groans in viewers - plays Josephine Chesterfield,
who makes her fortune planning and orchestrating elaborate scams on the
French Riviera, making her all-male prey fall victim to her false charms
by giving her all of their money.
Wilson plays Penny Rust, a two-bit, B-grade con artist that usually
makes scores off of much more lowly victims.
When Penny fatefully crosses paths with Josephine and realizes what
a gold mine operation she has in France she demands to be taken in as her
protégé to learn the ropes of successfully securing more big game
Josephine reluctantly agrees, even though she has massive trust
issues with her new student.
pair begin to have their respective issues with one another (also, based
on the fact that they're con-women, how could either of them truly trust the
other) and begin to realize that Beaumon-sur-Mer isn't big enough for the
both of them.
This leads to them hatching out a devious contest: Whomever can
swindle half a million dollars out of a visiting tech billionaire (Alex
Sharp) first gets to stay in France, whereas the loser has to leave
immediately and never come back.
Josephine confidently feels that she has the upper hand, mostly
because she knows her own home turf well and has a loyal sidekick in a
local cop (Ingrid Oliver) that's paid off to assist her whenever and
Still, Josephine realizes that she has her work cut out for her
when the unpredictable Penny begins to take ultra desperate measures (like
impersonating a blind person) to curb sympathy from the rich and naive
It's tough coming
down hard on female centric films like THE HUSTLE without coming off as a
misogynist, and also considering that there have been a slew of gender
swapped remakes and/or redos as of late that have ranged from pathetically
mediocre to decent (see GHOSTBUSTERS,
WHAT MEN WANT, and OCEAN'S
8, the latter being the only clever and watchable one of the
HUSTLE is not a failure because it switched out Caine/Martin for
Hardly at all.
The film's biggest creative sin is that the multitude of writers
here do virtually nothing with the would-be juicy premise of having women
conning inordinately gullible and rich men out of their fortunes.
Considering the times we live in, the idea of suppressed and
exploited women getting some serious comeuppance on men could have been so
endlessly compelling and milked for terrific satiric effect.
Unfortunately, THE HUSTLE is so empty minded and low calorie in
terms of being shrewd with its comedic predicaments.
Instead of thoughtful and hilarious commentary, this remake is
just a lame pratfall and joke generating machine that gets more cringe
worthy as it progresses.
I guess if a film
like this can't be intelligent in its scripting it should, at the very
least, provide some giddy merriment, but THE HUSTLE is mournfully D.O.A.
in the laughs department.
No serious offence to Hathaway or Wilson, but they simply don't
have the subtle comedic timing of Caine and Martin, and when it boils
right down to it both female leads here are painted in the broadest of
Hathaway's Josephine is basically a tight dress wearing gold digger
that uses sexuality as a weapon and Wilson's Penny is the wisecracking and
Wilson in particular comes off like fingernails on a chalkboard and
is essentially just riffing on all of her previous performance quirks
in past films, but the Oscar winning Hathaway is almost more
embarrassingly awful, sporting not one, but two awful accents:
British (as mentioned) and later an even worse German one when she tries
to impersonate the world's leading authority on blindness to help
"cure" Penny and secure the $500,000 from the tech guru.
You watch them here and just have to scratch your head how anyone
would even be conned by them at all.
By the time THE HUSTLE reaches its would-be scandalous and shocking climax (which is a carbon copy from the rug pulling twist from DIRTY ROTTEN SCOUNDRELS) I fully realized how creatively desperate and bankrupted this remake really was. With jokes that fall resoundingly flat, performances that rarely tickle the funny bone, and cheaply rendered scripting that comes off like a Xerox copy of what came before and what we're left with a total waste of 90 minutes in a darkened cinema with strangers that I'll never, ever get back. The unlimited awfulness of THE HUSTLE is not all that surprising considering the fact that it was shelved for years before release and that its borderline anemic marketing campaign did everything humanly possible to distance any referencing that it was a remake of DIRTY ROTTEN SCOUNDRELS.
Unsuspecting filmgoers paying to see forgettable drivel like this is a con job in itself.