Hustlers (M18)

Starring Jennifer Lopez, Constance Wu, Cardi B, Lili Reinhart

Directed by Lorene Scafaria

Jennifer Lopez rules. 

In Hustlers at least, where she’s the Queen, the Commander-in-Chief, and high priestess, all rolled into one. The second her character, exotic dancer Ramona, appears and works her magic on the dance pole (to the aptly chosen tune of Fiona Apple’s ‘Criminal’), she pretty much steals the movie from everyone else. 

She makes it so easy, just like the way she and her stripper kaki — including Constance Wu as Destiny, Ramona’s protégé, BFF and 2IC — duped their loaded Wall Street patrons to part ways with their moolah. 

Set in the post-2007 financial crisis, the entertaining true-crime drama — inspired by Jessica Pressler’s 2015 New York magazine article ‘The Hustlers at Scores’ — starts out like Ocean’s 8, but with more liquor and less clothing, focusing on how Ramona & co. charm their ways into their targets’ deep pockets (“get them drunk enough to use their credit cards, but sober enough to pay the check” is the golden rule). 

Sure, the ladies are no Robin Hood (then again, maybe they are — the money they scammed are given back to the poor…themselves), but we still root for them. Not so much what they did but who they did it to: their victims are scum, and they all have it coming. 

And while crime pays handsomely (at their peak, the women were raking in more than a brain surgeon, Destiny recalls), all good things must come to an end. And the moment Ramona drop the ball, the celebration of female empowerment becomes a familiar cautionary tale of excess. 

Blame their downfall on greed, ostentation, mistrust, and plain mismanagement. (Remember: never, never outsource to unreliable freelancers!) Imagine how far they would’ve gone had they exercised moderation. Just saying. (***1/2)

Photo: STX Films