Hustlers (2019)

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Doesn’t money make you horny? Working as a stripper to help her grandmother get out of debt and to make ends meet, Dorothy aka Destiny’s (Constance Wu) life changes forever when she becomes friends with Ramona (Jennifer Lopez) the Moves club’s top money earner who mentors her. Ramona soon shows Destiny how to finagle her way around the wealthy Wall Street clientele who frequent the club, teaching her about ‘fishing’. But the 2008 economic crash cuts into their profits. Three years later Destiny has retired to have a baby and her relationship has broken up and she’s broke.  She returns to Moves to find that Russian whores have moved in and the game has changed. She reunites with Ramona and they and two other dancers Mercedes (Keke Palmer) and Annabelle (Lili Reinhart) and find that Russian whores have moved into Moves, and they devise a daring scheme to take their lives back… This city, this whole country is a strip club. You got people tossing the money. And you got people doing the dance. Money really does make the world go round – and it’s a man’s world. And the men are creeps. Adapted by director Lorene Scafaria from Jessica Pressler’s 2015 New York Magazine article The Hustlers at Scores, an account of a true crime, with its diverse cast boosting a tale of female empowerment, this is a storming feminist movie perfect for the #MeToo era. For the first half. Then in the second half a flashback structure kicks in – Dorothy regales a journalist called Elizabeth (Julia Stiles) with her story – giving impetus to the idea that there is a moral to this tale which emphasises the issues facing young single mothers in a society falling apart.  But the pace slackens and it’s a more serious study. There are nice performances all round but Lopez simply bulldozes the material with sass and verve, making this caper a zesty exercise in revenge where Lopez can describe motherhood as a kind of mental illness. Think Widows, but with fewer clothes. Lopez’s pole dancing is just amazing. Produced by Lopez with Will Ferrell and Adam McKay, who dealt with the Crash in that very different caper, The Big Short. Serious entertainment. I really hope it’s not a story about all strippers being thieves

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Money Monster (2016)

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Guy walks into a TV studio with a suicide vest and a gun … Stop me if you’ve heard this one before. This is both current and Seventies, a flavourful account of working in TV on a show specialising on stock picking when it’s held to account by an aggrieved viewer who’s bet the farm and lost. It’s hosted by smarmy Lee Gates (George Clooney) who opens every episode doing an outrageous dance with two black go-go girls and some seriously offensive outfits. Julia Roberts is Patty, the voice in his ear who’s on directing duty when delivery man Kyle (Jack O’Connell) hovers behind the prop walls, puts the vest on Lee and a gun to his head and demands answers from Ibis, a company that Lee said was ‘safer than a savings acccount’ and lost $800 million in one afternoon. So there’s a quest to go after the CEO Walt Camby (Dominic West) whose own spin doctor (Caitriona Balfe) can’t locate him, the Korean drug and sex monster who created the algorithm and Icelandic hackers who help track down the plane and find Camby. This gets better and better as it goes along, with some outrageous humour, particularly when Kyle’s knocked up girlfriend goes mediaeval on him after being brought in to stop him:  Lee says to Kyle, So you’re the calm one in the relationship. And it’s this moment that turns the film into something else, when Lee actually goes through a variety of Stockholm Syndrone and vows to get Camby to explain what human hands were on all that money gone, inexplicably… Of course there is one massive problem and that’s when the film takes to the streets and we lose the plot somewhat:  Jack O’Connell is no Al Pacino (he’s great in 71, not this), there is no Attica! moment and his accent is wonky. Balfe, in a key supporting role, never even bothers with an American accent and sounds completely out of place. She has one huge moment at the end – and blows it by totally underplaying it. Wrong move. For this we must blame director Jodie Foster, an actress of literally legendary proportions. Clooney and Roberts are fantastic in a film that has instances of true hilarity but ends … rather predictably.