Review: The Hustle

Score: B-

Director: Chris Addison

Cast: Anne Hathaway, Rebel Wilson, Alex Sharp, Tim Blake Nelson

Running Time: 94 Minutes

Rated: PG-13

The Hustle has a pair of charming leads, but it's only a decent facsimile of one of the funniest movies ever made.

Dirty Rotten Scoundrels itself was a remake of a '60s comedy called Bedtime Story, but the roles of a suave British con artist and a low-life American huckster fit Michael Caine and Steve Martin like gloves. It's a little bit of a stretch to slot Anne Hathaway in there, though Rebel Wilson is perfectly trashy as an Australian crook. Together, they're a great odd couple. But The Hustle hits the exact same story beats in the exact same order, only briefly switching what happens to whom at the film's climax.

Hathaway plays Josephine, an elite swindler of rich bozos who can't help but be dazzled by her beauty. Wilson is her new rival: Penny, an Australian catfisher who cons men with sob stories about her sick and/or kidnapped (hotter) sister. After some cross-sabotage and a humorous training montage, they agree to one final bet: the first person to filch $500,000 out of a designated mark wins, and the loser will have to leave their gorgeous beach town forever.

They settle on a tech bro named Thomas (Tony winner Alex Sharp), who dresses like Mark Zuckerberg and has a dorky personality to match. In Dirty Rotten Scoundrels, the mark was played with impressive skill and comic timing by the late Glenne Headly. Let's just say that here, Sharp is no Glenne Headly. Now, if you've seen Scoundrels, you know where this is going: Penny fakes a psychosomatic condition, which she claims can only be cured by the non-existent Dr. Schaffhausen. Josephine then pretends to be Schaffhausen, using their treatment sessions as a chance to torture Penny, swooping in try to steal the money and seduce Thomas herself.

The film is merely a copy, but its updates make it feel very of the moment, and there are plenty of laughs along the way. Where it fails is in its attempts to humanize our grifters. We don't need the film to reinforce that men are horndogs who deserve to be conned. These ladies don't need any backstory or justification for their schemes at all. Seeing them in action is most of the fun.


About Kip Mooney

Kip Mooney
Like many film critics born during and after the 1980s, my hero is Roger Ebert. The man was already the best critic in the nation when he won the Pulitzer in 1975, but his indomitable spirit during and after his recent battle with cancer keeps me coming back to read not only his reviews but his insightful commentary on the everyday. But enough about a guy you know a lot about. I knew I was going to be a film critic—some would say a snob—in middle school, when I had to voraciously defend my position that The Royal Tenenbaums was only a million times better than Adam Sandler’s remake of Mr. Deeds. From then on, I would seek out Wes Anderson’s films and avoid Sandler’s like the plague. Still, I like to think of myself as a populist, and I’ll be just as likely to see the next superhero movie as the next Sundance sensation. The thing I most deplore in a movie is laziness. I’d much rather see movies with big ambitions try and fail than movies with no ambitions succeed at simply existing. I’m also a big advocate of fun-bad movies like The Room and most of Nicolas Cage’s work. In the past, I’ve written for The Dallas Morning News and the North Texas Daily, which I edited for a semester. I also contributed to Dallas-based Pegasus News, which in the circle of life, is now part of The Dallas Morning News, where I got my big break in 2007. Eventually, I’d love to write and talk about film full-time, but until that’s a viable career option, I work as an auditor for Wells Fargo. I hope to one day meet my hero, go to the Toronto International Film Festival, and compete on Jeopardy. Until then, I’m excited to share my love of film with you.