"Hustlers" (284988)

The world places its proverbial foot on the necks of the woman—around the world—so it’s no surprise that women use their sexuality as a weapon, and it’s a powerful one.

In the new film “Hustlers,” the use of sexuality is focused on empowering the women to pull off a true-crime saga. That might be one of the reasons the film is being tracked to have a major opening weekend.

The women’s targets were rich Wall Street clients, and they stripped several of them for their fortunes. The original story about the enterprising strippers appeared in New York Magazine and was adapted by writer-director Lorene Scafaria and stars Jennifer Lopez in a way that is satisfying beyond description. Let me try, “sultry with undertones of brilliance, a shimmering wonder that you can’t take your eyes off of”—but better!

Jessica Pressler (Julia Stiles) plays the curious and nonjudgemental journalist who gets schooled on the con by Lopez’s character with such a matter-of-fact molded logic, you find yourselves agreeing (completely) that the “fat cats of Wall Street” deserve to be fleeced like they do in their line of work.

The actresses playing strippers are Lili Reinhardt, Constance Wu, with supporting roles played by Keke Palmer, Cardi B and Lizzo, who embrace a profession previously thought skeezy.

You require a strong core to dance on a pole and a stronger set of proverbial “balls” to bait, drug and steal from the rich men so the struggling strippers, can get a better taste of the good life; that’s the heart of “Hustlers.”

The dancers are smart enough, and under director Scafaria’s balanced eyes their inner monologue, the subtext, is sublimely presented.

In short, the director makes the women human. They have backstories, boyfriends and, most importantly, gravitas. To make them even more interesting, these women/dancers can deliver the fantasy of any of the male fantasies, but they do so on their terms, always remembering that it’s business. Brilliant.

Ramona (Jennifer Lopez) advises newbie Destiny (Wu), explaining, in real terms, how strippers are paid to tease, to bring a client to the edge, but not to fulfill their clients’ desires.

In a brilliant series of scenes, Scafaria takes us into the dancers’ world, and what a world. You might think the rules are obvious but unless you’ve been inside a strip club, well, they are not.

At strip clubs like Moves (culled from local clubs like those that line our country), the dancers earn nothing for dancing, they work for tips, giving a huge cut (40% to 50%) to the club, which provides the rooms where the clients/men can get generous.

In “Hustlers,” it’s the men who are closer to stereotypes who are treated like “gods” by the management. These are Wall Street guys who make millions in many dishonest ways and drop six figures in a single visit.

To win, the women work together and things are great—and then the economy tanks. The fat cat customers get stingy. Suddenly these men want much more for their money, and new dancers are willing to do more and earn less.

During this economic slump, Destiny has left to have a child and now, she and Ramona (who has a daughter) have a need to feed their families.

Ramona goes to find the rich men and once they’ve ensnared an unsuspecting man, they bring him back to the club, where they’ve worked out a business arrangement, racking up the bill and splitting the money.

For a while, the deal works but Ramona wants more and suggests that they spike the men’s’ drinks with a drug, a home-baked cross between Ketamine and Ecstasy that knocks them out.

Then the scam gets explained to the reporter. The women max out the men’s credit cards but by now, we are hooked life-and-sinker into the film.

Did we as an audience get scammed? Perhaps. But it was an exciting, enticing, fun, informative and sexy time, and one I recommend you experience for yourself.

“Hustlers” written and directed by Lorene Scafaria. Starring Constance Wu, Jennifer Lopez, Julia Stiles, Keke Palmer, Lili Reinhart, Mercedes Ruehl, Cardi B, Lizzo, Madeline Brewer, Frank Whaley, Jon Glaser.