The Hustle Cert: 12A, 1hr 34mins
In this new era of gender equality in the film industry, it is of course quite right that there should be a female remake of the popular 1988 comedy Dirty Rotten Scoundrels, which starred Michael Caine and Steve Martin as two conmen working their smooth-talking charms on the wealthy women who lounge on the French Riviera.
After all, that in itself was a remake – of the 1964 comedy Bedtime Story, again an all-bloke affair starring David Niven and Marlon Brando. So it was high time the gender tables were turned and the girls got a go.
What’s a shame it is that the end result – The Hustle, starring Anne Hathaway and Rebel Wilson – should be quite so unambitious and disappointing. This is a film that aims low… and misses.
The Hustle , starring Anne Hathaway and Rebel Wilson is so unambitious and disappointing. This is a film that aims low… and misses
Quite how low becomes clear early on when Rebel Wilson’s character is clumsily joining the Mile High Club in an aeroplane toilet with a Danish playboy.
As the shot switches – thankfully – from the rhythmically jolting toilet door to external footage of the plane flying through the sky, we overhear a cabin announcement: ‘We are experiencing some unexpected turbulence…’
If you laugh at that, you might find something to enjoy here, particularly if you’re a fan of the boisterous Australian actress Wilson.
Despite the A-list presence of Hathaway, who presumably only did this to remind us of her comedy chops and aptitude for accents, this is very much a vehicle for Wilson
But if, like me, you’re stifling a groan, succumbing to despair and always incline to the view that a little Wilson goes a very long way, all I can do is tell you that it doesn’t get a lot better and only makes it over 90 minutes with the help of some add-on scenes that I’m sure are meant to send us out on to the street with a smile on our face and looking forward to the sequel.
Despite the A-list presence of Hathaway, who presumably only did this to remind us of her comedy chops and aptitude for accents, this is very much a vehicle for Wilson, who co-produces as well as stars, and in the process seems to have magically ensured that comedian turned actor turned debut movie director Chris Addison seems in no rush to shout ‘Cut!’
At least when Wilson is on the screen – ie, most of the time.
Whoever can relieve a young Silicon Valley billionaire of $500,000 first will make the town and its dumb-male rich-pickings her own (Hathaway pictured above with Casper Christensen)
The film’s lack of ambition begins with the casting. Neither of the male versions, Bedtime Story and Dirty Rotten Scoundrels, is heralded as a work of genius, but Niven and Brando is an interesting mix of contrasting talents, while Caine and Martin is out-and-out commercial.
But here the contrast is too obvious, too crude, pitching the tall, elegant and refined Hathaway – here adopting a plummy English accent in the Niven/Caine role – against the shorter, broader potty-mouth that is Wilson.
Jac Schaeffer has been brought in to give the screenplay a modern, female-empowered makeover, but the benefits are hard to discern. Once again, we are back in the Riviera town of Beaumont-sur-Mer, only this time it’s two feuding female con-artists who engage in a turf war.
IT’S A FACT
Rebel Wilson is allergic to dogs. Beagles abounded in the house she grew up in: it was only when she left that she discovered the allergy.
Whoever can relieve a young Silicon Valley billionaire of $500,000 first will make the town and its dumb-male rich-pickings her own. The loser has to leave.
There are one or two funny moments, and one or two telling ones too. ‘No man will ever believe a woman is smarter than he is,’ says Josephine (Hathaway). ‘That’s why we are underestimated.’
But too often this is a film that falls back on the lowest comedy denominator – twerking, bodily functions, dated gay stereotypes… oh, and Wilson’s machine-gun banter.
This won’t be the last old classic to be given a female-empowered makeover but The Hustle does at least make one thing clear – the women can definitely do a lot better than this!
ALSO OUT THIS WEEK
Pokémon: Detective Pikachu (PG)
The Pokémon – or Pocket Monster – universe has been around since 1996, and since its inception in the Japanese video games industry its endlessly diverse population of colourful creatures has moved into television cartoons and feature films too.
But there has never been a Pokémon movie like Pokémon: Detective Pikachu.
Pikachu hitherto best known for being small, sweet and yellow – oh, and able to discharge bolts of electricity from its tail – is now a film-noir detective, working in a Blade Runner-like metropolis and voiced by a rather knowing Ryan Reynolds.
Pikachu hitherto best known for being small, sweet and yellow – oh, and able to discharge bolts of electricity from its tail – is now a film-noir detective
Yes, the creature who until now could only squeak variations of its own name can now speak English.
Which is a big help as a troubled young man, Tim (Justice Smith), comes to Ryme City to find out what happened to his detective father, who, as the live-action film begins, is killed in a car crash as he flees from a research facility.
It’s a massive shift in style for the franchise and it takes a while to get used to, but it’s huge fun once you do. Look out for Bill Nighy, Ken Watanabe and Kathryn Newton among the supporting cast in a conspiracy-packed film that will go straight over the heads of – and perhaps even alarm – Pokémon’s traditionally very young audience.
But it should delight teens and young adults looking for a blast of impressively well-crafted and, at times, very funny nostalgia.
The Corrupted (18)
Having previously co-written the rather sweet screenplays for Fishermen’s Friends and Finding Your Feet, screenwriter Nick Moorcroft gives full vent to his dark side with this gritty – and very violent – urban thriller that feels likes a cross between The Long Good Friday, Line Of Duty and early Guy Ritchie.
Set against the background of the regeneration of east London, and starring Sam Claflin as an ex-con, it’s a familiar tale of murder, menace and corrupt property deals
Set against the background of the regeneration of east London, and starring Sam Claflin as an ex-con, it’s a familiar tale of murder, menace and corrupt property deals.
The excessive violence will be too much for many but Timothy Spall is terrific in a central role, and there’s a strong last lap.
Destination Wedding (15)
Written and directed by experienced TV writer Victor Levin, this is one of those ‘odd couple’ comedies in which you know what’s going to happen as soon as Frank (Keanu Reeves) and Lindsay (Winona Ryder) bump into each other on the way to a wedding and take an instant dislike to one another.
You know what’s going to happen as soon as Frank (Keanu Reeves) and Lindsay (Winona Ryder) bump into each other on the way to a wedding and take an instant dislike to one another
What predictably ensues is wordy (this is very much a conversation piece) and relatively static, but it’s also witty and clever, and Reeves and Ryder are unexpectedly good together. Look out for one of the funniest sex scenes you’ll see all year.
High Life (18)
It’s not often one feels sorry for actors but you do here as the likes of Robert Pattinson and Juliette Binoche gamely sign up to work with respected French film-maker Claire Denis and end up in silly and derivative sci-fi nonsense.
Pattinson plays the last surviving convict on a spaceship taking a one-way trip to a black hole with a noisily unhappy baby, while Binoche – courtesy of the film’s extensive use of flashbacks – is the unscrupulous medic conducting unethical experiments into human reproduction.
Dark Star, Solaris and bits of 2001: A Space Odyssey all spring to mind – but not in a good way.