Anne Hathaway and Rebel Wilson make a pretty decent team in “The Hustle,” and the film has a few laughs, despite its lack of originality. But it pales in comparison to its source material – “Dirty Rotten Scoundrels,” a much funnier comedy that had Michael Caine in the Hathaway role and Steve Martin in the one played by Wilson.
In the picture, the two women – Hathaway’s Josephine and Wilson’s Lonnie – are competing for the same crowd in a town in the south of France to swindle. Josephine is more of a cool character. She’ll steal your money or belongings without you even batting an eye, while Lonnie is more of a scam artist. As the picture opens, Lonnie is grifting a sleazy guy whom she is meeting at a bar after having conversed online under false pretenses.
After Josephine and Lonnie’s first meeting, the latter realizes that she has been conned by the former, and asks her to teach her her tricks. Josephine is against the idea, but relents after she realizes that Lonnie could turn her in to the authorities. So, she plays along with the intention of eventually ditching her.
The women work together on a series of cons in which they nab jewelry and money from rich men. Josephine plays the men’s fiancee, while Lonnie is the crazy sister. It’s a swindle that works for a while, until the two women again become enemies. They then make a wager with an agreement that the loser must vacate the area. Their bet revolves around a young tech millionaire (Alex Sharp) with a seemingly good heart. The first woman to convince him to fork over $500,000 wins the bet.
The film has a few funny moments, several of which involve Lonnie’s antagonistic relationship with Josephine’s butler, while the movie’s biggest laugh comes from the mispronunciation of a city’s name. But otherwise, “The Hustle” is a somewhat tepid remake of a funnier film.
It’s not really Hathaway and Wilson’s fault – they’re doing what they can with recycled material. There’s a twist near the end that is pretty easy to see coming and a tidy ending that sets us up for further adventures with these characters. My advice to the picture’s talented leads is to find better material instead.
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