The Hustle: A boring, unfunny remake that recreates the same stereotypes it wishes to dispel
If you force yourself to laugh at any point during the course of this boring film, it will mostly be at its sheer stupidity
This remake of Dirty Rotten Scoundrels does a role-reversal, with the women being the con artists duping rich, gullible men. In its attempt to bust myths and stereotypes about what women can and cannot do when it comes to the art of the con, The Hustle ends up falling prey to its own average tropes and clichés. In the entire duration of its 94 minutes, there is not one instance of humour worth mentioning. Pit this against the hilarious Michael Caine/Steve Martin-starrer, and there’s bound to be just one winner. The film is an out-and-out disappointment from start to finish, with the writing being the biggest casualty of them all. The writers have created a story that does a great disservice to not just its leads but its potential viewers too. I get the distinct feeling that they went with an ‘anything goes’ attitude, and severely underestimated the audience’s intelligence in the bargain; which is quite dreadful, if you think about it.
The first major failure involves the character-types of the two con-women at the centre of the plot. One is smooth-talking, sophisticated and extremely calculating, while the other is boorish and rough around the edges. The fact that the former has to be a statuesque, size-zero woman and the latter, her exact opposite, is in and of itself a horrible cliché. What do levels of cunning and manipulation have in common with one’s looks, anyway? If you want to go with the subject of equality in a comedy film, try and take a half-decent stab at it. Don’t showcase caricatures when your attempt is to bust those very same preconceived notions about gender. I understand that the big star gets the less demeaning role (sad but true in all major film industries the world over), but it is evident that the writing in no way pays dividends to the women it chooses to portray as independent and sharp. Maybe it would have made sense to come up with a film that was inspired by 1988’s Dirty Rotten Scoundrels and 1964’s Bedtime Story (the original), getting the script drawn up by screenwriters who are women too.
Director – Chris Addison
Cast – Anne Hathaway, Rebel Wilson, Alex Sharp, Ingrid Oliver, Dean Norris
The banal scenes keep hitting you one after the other in The Hustle, and the whole business is relentless. The male millionaires that Josephine (Hathaway) and Penny (Wilson) con as an unlikely team end up coming off as complete idiots across the board – which makes you wonder how the hell they amassed their damn fortune in the first place. A Mark Zuckerberg-lookalike with a T-shirt, hoodie, and jeans, plays a tech genius who’s made his money off a successful app. All supposed tech geniuses must fit into said box (with puppy-dog eyes and a socially awkward presence to boot), apparently, because how else does one identify someone from IT, right? Being bereft of humour and falling into the depths of mediocrity aren’t the only things to fault The Hustle for, though. The film goes through a series of instances where continuity or common sense is a distant dream. It is a total mystery how Penny (who’s constantly made to appear as a small-time con artist with bare minimum smarts) ends up scouting out Josephine’s mansion on the French Riviera? But then again, one is meant to merely go along in such cases, and not ask too many questions, I suppose. Another incredulous scene has the wily and polished con-woman take on the diamond in the rough without so much as a moment’s hesitation, despite being crystal clear, just minutes before, about the fact that she works independently. Don’t tell me Penny’s unfunny motormouth/circus act convinced an experienced charlatan like Josephine otherwise? While Dirty Rotten Scoundrels may not have possessed the most brilliant narrative, it certainly banked on the comedic abilities of both Caine and Martin.
Unfortunately, neither Hathaway nor Wilson are able to manage the same. If you force yourself to laugh at any point during the course of this boring film, it will mostly be at its sheer stupidity. Predictable plot devices and badly thought out twists plague The Hustle right through. And those final few minutes deflate the story even further, with the makers/writers poking holes into their overall message of gender and equality. At least if it was genuinely funny, one can forgive the rest. An emphatic thumbs down in every sense!