The Hustle (2019)

The Hustle film poster.pngDirector: Chris Addison
Running Time: 94 Minutes
Starring: Anne Hathaway, Rebel Wilson, Alex Sharp, Ingrid Oliver, Emma Davies, Dean Norris, Timothy Simons, Rob Delaney, Tim Blake Nelson

A remake of 1988's Dirty Rotten Scoundrels, which itself was a remake of 1964's Bedtime Story, Chris Addison makes his directorial debut with a feature that wants to pay homage to old-school capers. Complete with animated opening credits, the intent is clear, but the overall film is too inept and hollow to truly work.

After a chance meeting on a train, high-class con artist Josephine (Anne Hathaway) takes low-rent scammer Penny (Rebel Wilson) under her wing, to school her in the trade. After a while, the pair decide to compete against one another, to trick tech wiz Thomas (Alex Sharp) out of his money.

Updating the script based upon prior films, screenwriter Jac Schaeffer attempts to weave in social commentary about perceived gender roles. It's a good idea which should work alongside this female-led iteration on the story, but little is done to make it register anywhere other than on the surface. Plus, considering this is meant to fit into the comedy genre, it's disheartening the attempts at humour are too lazy to raise even a smile. The best joke is a barely seen sign on the door of a hotel, which reads "Suite Caroline". It's a small gag, but that reference to the Neil Diamond tune generates more of a response than any of the jokes attempted throughout the rest of the 94 minute runtime.

Our entry point into this world, Rebel Wilson's Penny is a character whose motivations we can understand, while the actress fares well during the more serious moments. A shame her performance relies on poorly enacted slapstick, with a stilted and disinterested line delivery which could be blamed on the awful dialogue she's lumbered with. As for Anne Hathaway, the most notable thing about her performance is her butchering an assembly of awful accents.

One gets the impression the efforts by the filmmakers were put into trying to one-up the audience at every turn, which leaves items such as characterisation and jokes to fall by the wayside. But then it's all for naught, as the unfolding plot is too signposted to keep the audiences guessing. At least viewers are granted the sights of such a lush location, but it's damning with faint praise when you could get these from Google, without having to bear witness to this soulless comedy vacuum.

When it comes to The Hustle, the real hustle is in classifying it as a comedy. A hollow and unfunny 94 minutes which feels much longer.