By Laurie Coker

Rating: A

Everyone hustles – for a job, to care for the kids, to win a race or earn a promotion, but no one hustles like actress Jennifer Lopez in her latest film Hustlers.  Writer-director, Lorene Scafaria brings out the best in her cast and Lopez uses every gift that nature gave her – beautifully formed by discipline and exercise – to bring a larger than life character to the big screen. The true story, on which Scafaria bases her tale, made headlines starring a real-life a diva — and an article written for ‘The New York Times’ by Jessica Pressler, entitled “The Hustlers at Scores.”

Set mainly in the dreary darkness of a seedy strip club called ‘Moves,’ Hustlers introduces us to Destiny (Constance Wu), a desperate young woman trying to help her grandmother pay the bills. Green and out of place Destiny finds a mentor of sorts in Ramona Vega (Lopez) a still stunning, older than average stripper who takes Destiny (and others) under her wing. The club caters to a type – mainly Wall Street jerks in suits if we are to believe the story. When the Stock Market takes a catastrophic dive in 2008, the ladies and many more like them, find themselves struggling along with most of the country. But, instead of lying down, they rise up and take matters into their own hands. Pulling from a list of former club regulars, they devise a plan to steal from the rich and to give to – themselves.

This might be Lopez’s best performance yet and as Ramona she commands the film – strutting powerfully through scenes, flashing her signature smile and chewing up and spitting out men before they wake from their drugged stupor to stop her. Her ability to capture the sexy grittiness of the situations and still impressively maintain a sense of class mesmerizes. J.Lo. vanishes and the multi-talented actress shows her star-powered soul. For her part, Wu subtly flexes between innocence and full-on fraud effortlessly. Wu has the sass of a stripper and the commonsense of a businesswoman. Destiny is at her most vulnerable when she tells her story to a reporter in flashbacks and we see her struggle with the reality of her rags to riches to prison (or rather the plea deal that keeps her out) story.

Hustlers is garnering as much attention as did Samantha Barbash and Roselyn Keo’s sordid tale, especially as controversy surrounds Barbash’s desire for compensation from the film’s proceeds for the creators having stolen her story. There is no doubt from the moment she steps foot on screen that Lopez owns her character and Hustlers easily deserves an A the grade book because of her and her co-stars.  The story is intriguing, but it is just a foundation on which Lopez can rise.

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