Monday, 26 August 2019

The Hustle ★★★☆☆

I settled down to watch The Hustle with a few preconceptions. The comedy hadn’t reviewed well, and remakes generally tend to miss the mark at the best of times. As it turns out, it wasn’t as bad as I expected, but it was still a bit of a stinker nonetheless.

Anne Hathaway and Rebel Wilson team up for comedy remake The Hustle. The former is plays an experienced, refined pro who attempts to train her brash Australian counterpart in the art of the con, but they end up getting into a competition to see who can scam a tech mogul (Alex Sharp) who happens to be staying in their fictional town in the south of France. The loser has to leave, but there’s never a sense that they’ll be apart for long.

The film uses Dirty Rotten Scoundrels as a primer, although it lacks the warmth of the 1988 Michael Caine/Steve Martin version. Instead, it follows the current trend of gender-swapping main characters in a bid to tell a fresh story, but it’s really just a vehicle for Wilson to let loose with her on-stage persona. 

There’s a ton of physical comedy which is hit-or-miss, including blind jokes, weight jokes, and every other premise which has already been mined extensively for any potential comedic returns ten times over. That’s not to say that you won’t laugh now and then, but much depends on if you’re able to put up with the many jokes that don’t land or watching montages that go on for far too long. Hathaway is convincing enough as a haughty scammer with a questionable English accent, proving to be an effective foil for her costar, but she doesn’t draw many laughs herself.

English comedian Chris Addison was handed his first major directorial role with this movie, and you can see his Anglo influences in a few places. There's a trio of Essex girls who get roped in, but nothing to suggest the ability of the man in charge. It’s mostly a generic chalk and cheese pairing, squandering the talents of the main duo who do try their best to squeeze out something watchable for the paying audience.

The Hustle easily exceeded my limited expectations given the mediocre reviews it received upon release. Despite that, it’s not very good, and it’ll hopefully dissipate from my memory in a month or so. It’s a film made for Wilson, so you’ll probably enjoy it if you’re a fan of her previous output or slapstick comedies in general. With a few defining features, it’s something to stick on in the background while you’re staring at a phone, or just about good enough to watch passably on a long-haul flight. Otherwise, you can probably find a better film to fill a runtime of 94 minutes. Personally, I’d recommend Dirty Rotten Scoundrels, which still holds up today.

James Millin-Ashmore

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