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The Hustle: all cons and few pros

09 May, 2019 — By Dan Carrier

Anne Hathaway and Rebel Wilson in The Hustle

Directed by Chris Addison
Certificate 12a

THE Hustle is a direct remake of the wonderful 1988 film Dirty Rotten Scoundrels, about two con artists battling over a patch of turf on the French Riviera.

DRS was a knockout film with Michael Caine and Steve Martin in the lead roles. It became a seminal comedy of the time, a wonderfully funny romp, with a brilliant twist.

This film is an almost scene-for -scene remake, but this time out Anne Hathaway and Rebel Wilson take the tricksters’ characters.

Josephine (Hathaway) is the big fish in the Riviera pond who works hand-in-glove with police chief Inspector Desjardins (Ingrid Oliver) to swindle stupid men out of their fortunes.

A low-life criminal (Wilson) appears as she enjoys a break from cheap scores in New York – and decides she too wants a piece of the action. To get rid of her, Josephine conjures up a bet: who can get young tech geek (Alex Sharp) to part with $500,000? The winner stays put and fleeces unattractive men and their bank accounts, the loser moves on.

You can understand why director Chris Addison would like to bring DRS to a new audience, and also understand why it is fun to switch the genders of the leads – though the upshot of the original was the all-too-clever conmen were undone by a woman, so where this stands in terms of being woke is not too clear.

Updated references range from their mark being a tech millionaire to the design and layout of what the 1 per cent today find stylish and classy – its all Modernism now, compared to the faux Baroque / Classical settings of the Riviera 30 years ago. A group of sailors enlisted by Steve Martin’s character to help him become a trio of “Essex” women on holiday – a faintly distasteful piece of stereotyping, which also commits the ultimate crime of being unfunny.

This is not to do down the performances of Wilson and Hathaway, who are passable, but it’s hard to reach the final scene – by which time you know exactly what is going to happen – without wondering what the point of this film is.

And above all, could we please have a film that casts Rebel Wilson in the lead role and makes absolutely no reference to her weight? While she is rightly feted as a brilliant actor and comedian, all too often in a weird “switcheroo” way her body shape is used as a form of empower­ment. That may on the surface seem to be a good thing – but once again, isn’t it time she is cast as a lead in a comedy where her body is not mentioned in any way, shape or form – even in a positive way? It just feels that it detracts constantly from simply enjoying her talent.

She is ace, and it isn’t because of, or in spite of, how she looks. I don’t think Hollywood has quite clocked this fact yet.


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