The Hustle (12A)

Comedy (2019)
94mins US

Starring: Anne Hathaway, Tim Blake Nelson, Rebel Wilson, Alex Sharp
Director: Chris Addison
Writer(s): Stanley Shapiro, Paul Henning, Jac Schaeffer, Dale Launer
Listings: London | Rest of UK and Ireland

Josephine Chesterfield is a skilled con woman, who has mastered acting techniques and specialist skills such as knife-throwing to wrap any unsuspecting man around her little finger. During a train journey, she encounters undisciplined scam artist Penny Rust, who is in dire need of refinement. Josephine agrees to take Penny under her designer label wing and polish away some of the rough edges. The duplicitous double-act's first target is technology millionaire Thomas Westerburg.

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LondonNet Film Review
The Hustle (12A)

The see-sawing balance of power between embattled sexes tilts violently from preposterousness to tedium in the feature film directorial debut of Welsh stand-up Chris Addison. Credited to four writers who should hang their heads in shame, The Hustle is an excruciatingly misconceived caper, which gender-swaps the con artists and victims of Dirty Rotten Scoundrels to clumsily engineer deceptions along the French Riviera. Addison's picture certainly left me feeling dirty, jokes are rotten to their potty-mouthed and homophobic core, and the cast and crew might well be labelled scoundrels for attempting to swindle us out of hard-earned cash for this relentlessly unfunny tosh...

The Hustle. Copyright: 2019 Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer Pictures Inc. Caption: Rebel Wilson as Penny Rust and Anne Hathaway as Josephine Chesterfield in The Hustle, directed by Chris Addison. Photo: Christian Black. All Rights Reserved.Oscar winner Anne Hathaway and Pitch Perfect whirlwind Rebel Wilson are gifted performers and fool us into expecting at least one solid punchline every 10 minutes. Alas, the film's only gilt-edged joke is on us as the leads fail to sell outlandish set-pieces including a painfully protracted sequence which imagines Wilson as Hathaway's demented, aristocratic younger sister, who lives in a cell with royally attired mannequins. We're the only ones being taken for dummies here.

Josephine Chesterfield (Hathaway) is a skilled conwoman, who operates from a sun-kissed base of operations in Beaumont-sur-Mer aided by trusty manservant Albert (Nicholas Woodeson) and shady local police officer Inspector Desjardins (Ingrid Oliver). This playground of the rich and fabulous provides easy pickings for Josephine and her associates. Occasionally the team travel abroad and, during one train journey home, an impeccably polished Josephine encounters unrefined and undisciplined scam artist Penny Rust (Rebel Wilson). The motormouth Australian threatens to draw unwanted attention to Josephine and her duplicity. Reluctantly, the veteran agrees to take her clueless sister in skulduggery under a designer-labelled wing in Beaumont sur Mer.

"Shape me into something better ... and richer!" pleads Penny. Cue a training montage of physical exercise, mental acrobatics and knife-throwing to provide Penny with the requisite skills to partner Josephine, Albert and Desjardins on their high-stakes cons. Mannered mentor and uncouth protegee come to blows and agree a wager: the first woman to persuade socially inept technology millionaire Thomas Westerburg (Alex Sharp) to part with 500,000 dollars wins. Elaborate games of one-upwomanship spiral out of control.

From the moment Wilson grinds her wetsuit-clad frame against the bars of a police cell, The Hustle implodes, leaving a nasty taste in the mouth. Misfiring humour lurches from clumsy wordplay to stinking, literal toilet humour (a gross-out flourish involving a fried potato chip). Hathaway searches forlornly for titters with a succession of silly accents, while her co-star is burdened with hopeless pratfalls including one painful application of superglue that is conveniently forgotten in the next wheezing breath. I pray I can erase Addison's film from my memory just as quickly.

- Sam Cannon

The Hustle. Copyright: 2019 Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer Pictures Inc. Caption: Rebel Wilson as Penny Rust and Anne Hathaway as Josephine Chesterfield in The Hustle, directed by Chris Addison. Photo: Christian Black. All Rights Reserved.

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