Despite its glamorous setting and talented leads, Chris Addison’s The Hustle is weirdly flat. Those expecting an amusing comedy will be disappointed.
Josephine is a con artist working her tricks on gullible rich men in the south of France. When brash Australian Penny shows up hoping to score big, Josephine reluctantly agrees to train her to make big cons…
An update of 1988’s Dirty Rotten Scoundrels, The Hustle sees two con artists reluctantly team up to swindle rich men out of the money. Director Chris Addison’s film sticks to the same beats as the earlier picture, yet lacks the charm of its antecedent. The set up works fine; with Josephine and Penny making an odd couple pairing. However, The Hustle is let down by its screenplay (written by Jac Schaeffer) that fails to bring laughs, tension or thrills.
The opening gambit establish the two main characters and their methods fairly succinctly. After the characters interact, with Josephine agreeing to train Penny, it is like the film does not no where to run with this. Setting up a rivalry at this point feels reductive, lacking the sense of tension or stakes that it should. The bet placed seems flippant, almost like a device that will lead on to a bigger con. Unfortunately there is little intelligence in the sting; the clever con viewers may expect never materialises. Instead, the ending is remarkably flat, so much so that viewers may be surprised when the credits roll. Whilst it follows the same narrative as the 1988 film, it feels as if Schaeffer and Addison might do something different here, given the lack of punch. There is no discernible climax, and the lack of payoff is jarring.
The other major issue with The Hustle is the humour. Most of the jokes fall flat, failing to get a titter from viewers. The weight jokes get tired incredibly fast, and the slapstick fails to raise a laugh. If the film had been amusing throughout, some of the narrative drawbacks may have been forgiven. As it stands, poor jokes and a flimsy story make for a deadly combination. Rebel Wilson musters as much charisma as possible, but the material works against her and Anne Hathaway. Hathaway has done comedy well enough before, but here fails to deliver laughs. The production values are good, as are the costumes and styling.
A talented actor and writer, hopefully Chris Addison will go on to better things than this feature directorial debut. The Hustle is a dud.