The Hustle stars the awkward and quirky team up of actresses Anne Hathaway and Rebel Wilson and has much going for it in terms of promising entertainment value. The Chris Addison directorial debut feature succeeds in what it brings to the table with its comedy, courtesy of the said partnership between Hathaway and Wilson, but it falters in what to actually do with them within the context of the film, with a somewhat disastrous screenplay that is credited to a staggering four writers and stands as a remake to a previous film.
The Hustle follows both Hathaway and Wilson as Josephine Chesterfield and Penny, respectively. These two characters are on separate polar opposite ends of the con artist scale. Hathaway is swooning high-end profiled clients with her charm and sophistication in the south of France. Meanwhile, Wilson is playing the small game. Hustling clients in vain as she uses her wits against them with little success. They randomly meet on a train after their latest cons and after a tricky start, eventually, team up to start an elaborate million-dollar scheme.
The Hustle, being a remake of the hit 1988 comedy Dirty Rotten Scoundrels. It’s actually somewhat of a surprise how poorly executed the narrative on offer is, even with a clear guideline of what works and what doesn’t, it sadly still fails to recognize its strengths and weaknesses. Everything is incredibly underwhelming and drags to an extent that becomes tiresome before its third act even begins. You’re left wondering how badly this has been squandered with how diluted, stale and unimaginative this plays out. Visually speaking the film’s cinematography by Michael Coulter is constructed of constant POVs of the fabulous setting but doesn’t have any imagination and evokes a generic Americanism of capturing only the flashy sites and not the personality of the setting this film so desperately cries for attention.
A horribly overly zealous twist does little to ignite any imagination and if anything highlights the drastically unimaginative flair that the film falls foul in. The performances are the only saving grace of this deeply unappealing and underwhelming feature. Hathaway’s performance reinforces how far her range travels, with a terrific tongue firmly in cheek role that showcases the talent the Academy Award-winning actress has hidden up her sleeve. She’s superbly devilish and charismatic with a sizeable screen presence. Even managing to keep up with the comedic prowess of her co-star Wilson, of whom is excellent throughout. For an actress who prominently makes self-deprecating jokes about her weight for most of her career, we are witness to a new layer of the actress’s caliber, with a much-improvised albeit hilariously induced performance that caters more comedic ground on more notes than the simplistic route of her looks. Alex Sharp as Thomas Westerburg fails to inject any personality or charisma within his character— a saddening flat rendition of a Mark Zuckerberg type. Sharp struggles with his accent throughout, and just can’t quite nail the awkwardness or circumstance of his character’s position within the film.
The comedy, undoubtedly, throughout works and when it’s on a high it no doubts lifts the picture in a wonderfully entertaining ride but it’s so short lived. All in all, this feature is simply not at the standards it should be at with the quality cast it has behind it. The standards are lowered to such an extent the film feels as if it’s exploiting its audience in a manner of promising a film but never delivers. Evoking a sense of wanting to make money than sufficiently crafting an entertaining picture.
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