UNIVERSAL PICTURES (2019)
Director: Chris Addison
Starring: Anne Hathaway, Rebel Wilson, Alex Sharp, Dean Norris
Anne Hathaway = Queen.
A modern take on Frank Oz’s 1988 comedy Dirty Rotten Scoundrels, The Hustle finds Anne Hathaway and Rebel Wilson in an unlikely team-up (of sorts) as a pair of con artists looking to exploit men’s weaknesses and rack up a huge fortune. A decent concept and surely one that’s ripe for some fine comedy? Well, it should be. Debutant (movie) director Chris Addison led from the front and as he is devilishly unfunny, my hopes for this were low and so it proved.
The gender-swapped comedy doesn’t really change an awful lot from the Michael Caine and Steve Martin led romp from decades back, except it’s just less funny. Funnily enough, a comedy must bring the laughs – that is the very oxygen on which comedies thrive. The situation can be what it likes, however, there needs to be good, consistent humour and, where possible, affable characters. The Hustle has neither. The gags are cliché or simply well-worn, Rebel Wilson’s small-time con artist Penny Rust is tasked with falling over things, acting daft and rolling out fat jokes whereas Hathaway is relegated to silly accents as the hoity-toity Josephine Chesterfield and simply having to be there. Neither are particularly likable, though Wilson’s character is more the ‘everyperson’ we are supposed to root for though Alex Sharp is fine as the young tech wizard billionaire and the target of the two ladies schemes.
Forgivably and thankfully, The Hustle only clocks in at around ninety minutes so the tedium doesn’t extend for too long but when the central ‘con’ itself is poorly written and the overall dialogue wince-inducing, it can feel like ninety hours at points – especially when the improv lines (of which there are seemingly many) feel so desperate. The attempts to make us feel something for these characters or bond with them by the end aren’t executed at all well, meaning a fairly hollow dénouement and a reaching plea for a sequel. The French Riviera looks magnificent, though, and is probably the best part of the movie.
Dirty Rotten Scoundrels was never the greatest of movies or the funniest of comedies, so The Hustle wasn’t facing insurmountable odds. If you’re going to re-do something, at least equal the original (at minimum). The Hustle falls at pretty much every hurdle – especially with its attempts at…comedy - and fails its leads by wasting their talents. Clichéd, bland and a slog.
May 13th 2019