A tepid remake of Dirty Rotten Scoundrels
A tepid remake of Dirty Rotten Scoundrels

MOVIE REVIEW: Squirmy remake has no reason to exist

There's nothing wrong with gender-reversal remakes in general - often they have a fresh perspective to offer.

The Hustle, an Anne Hathaway and Rebel Wilson-led remake of Dirty Rotten Scoundrels (itself a remake of Bedtime Story), starts off with promise, but the ending betrays its own reason for existing.

It might elicit the occasional chuckle but it's very much a big, broad comedy that short-changes Hathaway's share of screen time and relies on an audience's embrace of Wilson's squirmy schtick, because you're going to be pummelled with it, like an inescapable tsunami.

 

Not as funny as it thinks it is
Not as funny as it thinks it is

Wilson plays Penny, a small-time Australian con artist who dupes douchebag men for $500 takes, but it's OK because they deserve it - these men are only parting with their cash because they think there's either a hot blonde who either needs a breast implant or a virginal sister needing rescue from kidnappers.

She has a code, she looks them in the eye and decides whether or not they merit the con. When those men are played by the likes of Timothy Simon (Veep's Jonah Ryan), you'll wish she took them for more.

On a train in France, she meets Josephine (Hathaway), a high-end con artist who fleeces ratbag men for $500,000 at a time. When Jo realises the unrefined Penny plans on crashing the cushy set-up she has in Beaumont-sur-Mer, she tries to divert Penny elsewhere.

The plan is unsuccessful and Jo reluctantly agrees to teach Penny what she knows - taking her in gracefully in order to get her out gracefully.

 

Hathaway is making the exact face you will during this scene
Hathaway is making the exact face you will during this scene

The mentoring, which of course comes with its own slapstick-filled training montage, eventually leads the two to go head-to-head on a bet to con a cool half a million from a young tech mogul (Alex Sharp).

Wackiness and schemes ensue in an escalating battle to win.

The Hustle is a very straight remake of Dirty Rotten Scoundrels, following the 1988 movie starring Michael Caine and Steve Martin's story and character beats with surprising fidelity.

That also means, if you're familiar with that version, the ending, which I won't spoil here if you're not, undermines The Hustle's philosophy of two smart women using their intellect and instincts to play on silly men's spurious assumptions about women against them.

The twist is clever in Dirty Rotten Scoundrels but it doesn't work here, another disappointment in a movie that was already only mildly amusing in the first place - it's as if we're the ones who have been conned.

 

If the screen time was better balanced in Hathaway’s favour, The Hustle would’ve been more amiable
If the screen time was better balanced in Hathaway’s favour, The Hustle would’ve been more amiable

 

The pacing is fine, the costumes are fun and Hathaway and Wilson have good chemistry. But that's the gist of The Hustle.

If you're a big fan Wilson's cringe brand, there's probably more in it for you. But if you find her too much or very one-note, then there's really not much to sustain your patience here.

It's a shame the movie didn't make more of Hathaway's comedic talents, and we know she has impeccable timing, because a greater balance between the two characters would've rescued The Hustle, maybe.

As it is, it's an unimaginative and moderately diverting comedy that you'd probably be content with if you literally have nothing else to watch.

Rating: ★★

The Hustle is in cinemas now

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