If you had any doubts about the star status of Jennifer Lopez, they should be dispelled by one shot in writer-director Lorene Scafaria’s exhilarating comedy-drama Hustlers. Lopez’s actual entrance, as pole dancer Ramona, is pure showstopper. She glides on to the stage of the strip club where our cautious, exploited heroine Destiny (Constance Wu) works, dressed in a mere suggestion of Lurex and rhinestone, and balanced on six-inch heels.
Scafaria smartly sidesteps the male gaze for the most part, and Ramona’s performance on the pole, bending, flexing and hanging in mid-air, is an astonishing feat of athleticism. The movements of her perfectly tanned and toned flesh signify elite gymnastics rather than sleazy titillation – yet instead of handing her a medal, the clientele rain down an improbable cascade of dollar bills. Ramona registers Destiny’s open-mouthed awe with one of the script’s juiciest one-liners: “Does the money make you horny?”
A wisely chosen soundtrack and music-star cameos from the likes of Cardi B, Lizzo and (joyously) Usher provide pop-culture thrills, but it’s those two intense lead performances and Scafaria’s sizzling script that make Hustlers such a pleasurable dance. Jennifer Lopez and Constance Wu turn the tables and steal the show as pole-dancing gold diggers in Lorene Scafaria’s rip-roaring retelling of a real-life strip club heist.
– Pamela Hutchinson, Sight & Sound
That Oscar chatter for Jennifer Lopez’s revelatory, nuanced, and emotional turn as a brilliant con artist and better exotic dancer is no joke.
Hustlers is not only Scafaria’s best film, it’s also a welcome twist on the crime thriller genre and the ripped-from-the-headlines, can-you-believe-this-is real drama. And, yes, it’s also a film about strippers, but more than that, it’s about women doing the best they can in a broken system. It’s also funny, empowering, sexy, emotional, and a bit scary, with most of those superlatives coming care of a full-force performance from Jennifer Lopez genuinely deserving of awards consideration.
– Kate Erbland, IndieWire