The Hustle

 

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So much mugging and so many pratfalls fail to raise a smile in this dispiriting distaff 

remake of Dirty Rotten Scoundrels.

 
The Hustle

Conning their audience: Rebel Wilson and Anne Hathaway

 

It is intriguing that The Hustle is a distaff reworking of the Michael Caine-Steve Martin comedy Dirty Rotten Scoundrels (1988). It is intriguing because you couldn’t get away with a male version of The Hustle. Not in today’s climate. Maybe in the bitcoin-galvanized, hormonally-charged upper echelons of the French Riviera one still might find pot-bellied, balding millionaires who think they can win a woman’s favour with trinkets and a free gambling chip. Because, in the words of Josephine Chesterfield, a ‘nice guy’ is an oxymoron.

 

Here, Michael Caine is replaced by Anne Hathaway with one of her English accents, and Steve Martin by Rebel Wilson as an obnoxious Australian tourist (“a big-titted Russell Crowe”, to quote Ms Hathaway). Ms Hathaway is Josephine Chesterfield, a sophisticated con artist routinely fleecing rich and gullible men in the fashionable environs of Beaumont-sur-Mer. Her routine is stalled by the arrival of Penny Rust (rhymes with “lust”), who muscles in with her own act, because lying to the unfortunate is second nature to her. Penny is a truly objectionable piece of work, a self-serving parasite who lives for food and sex, not unlike other characters played by Rebel Wilson. Only fans of Ms Wilson’s weak and crude ad-libbing may be able to muster a wan smile here.

 

For a film that can trace its lineage back to the David Niven-Marlon Brando comedy Bedtime Story (1964) – the inspiration for Dirty Rotten Scoundrels The Hustle is a dispiritingly crass affair. To travel even further back in time, it was Buster Keaton who said that, “I always want the audience to outguess me, and then I double-cross them.” Here, there are no comic surprises, just silly voices and pratfalls, schoolgirl high jinks and spilled food. As for the cons themselves, they are hardly in the Derren Brown domain. Coming off the back of the classy, sleekly entertaining Ocean’s Eight, another tale of female duplicity starring Anne Hathaway, The Hustle is not so much a poor cousin as a destitute outlaw.

 

JAMES CAMERON-WILSON

 

Cast: Anne Hathaway, Rebel Wilson, Alex Sharp, Dean Norris, Timothy Simons, Ingrid Oliver, Nicholas Woodeson, Hannah Waddingham.

 

Dir Chris Addison, Pro Roger Birnbaum and Rebel Wilson, Screenplay Stanley Shapiro, Paul Henning, Dale Launer and Jac Schaeffer, Ph Michael Coulter, Pro Des Alice Normington, Ed Anthony Boys, Music Anne Dudley, Costumes Emma Fryer.

 

Pin High Productions/Cave 76 Productions/Camp Sugar Productions/Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer-Universal Pictures.

94 mins. USA. 2019. Rel: 10 May 2019. Cert. 12A.