The Hustle :movie about con artists

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  • In theaters: May 10, 2019
  • On DVD or streaming: August 20, 2019
  • Cast: Anne Hathaway, Rebel Wilson, Alex Sharp
  • Director: Chris Addison
  • Studio: MGM
  • Genre: Comedy
  • Run time: 94 minutes
  • MPAA rating: PG-13
  • MPAA explanation: crude sexual content and language
  • imdb : 5.4
  • prabashanas rating : 5.6


THE HUSTLE is a gender-swapped take on 1988’s Dirty Rotten Scoundrels (itself a remake of 1964’s Bedtime Story) starring Rebel Wilson as Penny, a low-level grifter who suddenly sees how much money she could be pulling in when she has a chance encounter with Josephine (Anne Hathaway), a multimillionaire con artist who pulls big scams from her estate in the south of France. Josephine wants Penny gone, so the two of them make a wager: The first one to get $500K out of a sensitive, Zuckerberg-ish tech millionaire (Alex Sharp) wins, while the other has to leave town for good. But when the hustlers become the hustled, it’s clear that these women aren’t quite as tricky as they think they are. 

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For a brief shining moment, this movie looks like that rarest of beasts — a film that’s both progressive and hilariously funny — but that moment passes. Instead, even though this gender-flipped remake starts with a premise that’s positively inspired — that women make better con artists because men are reluctant to believe that women could be smarter than them — it degenerates into two tired clichés: women competing with one another, and endless fat jokes. Of course, the final competition is baked into The Hustle‘s source material; Steve Martin and Michael Caine did likewise, as did David Niven and Marlon Brando before them. But given the chemistry between Hathaway and Wilson and how infrequently audiences get to see smart women teaming up instead of tearing each other apart, a plotline tweak that brought the pair together would have been more joyful to watch. 

And then there are the fat jokes, which range from numbingly tiresome (Wilson’s many “I’m sooooo clumsy!” pratfalls) to actually cruel (like a scene in the beginning of the movie in which a man who expects to meet a “hot,” thin girl is visibly and audibly horrified when Wilson arrives). A scene near the end illustrates how things could have gone differently (and better!) in this movie, when Wilson says that she never really decides to take a man’s money until he’s unkind or dismissive of her because of her looks. Her con games are, at heart, a form of revenge for being told she’s unworthy by men. The filmmakers had the sensitivity to come up with that, yet they also make Wilson stumble over ledges and stairs and pommel horses, order enough food at dinner for three people, proposition a man who seems incredulous at the offer (and responds with “I have standards”). What a pity. It is nice that Wilson, not Hathaway, winds up with a love interest, but with the romance taking place almost entirely offscreen, it’s not nearly as satisfying as it could be — which unfortunately turns out to be a pretty good description of this movie, despite the many jokes that actually land.