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Byron Shire
March 6, 2021

Cinema Review: The Hustle

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Just off the cuff, I can’t for the life of me remember a weaker re-make of a terrific, much-loved film. Frank Oz’s Dirty Rotten Scoundrels (1988) set the bar for flicks about sophisticated scams, and director Chris Addison’s tacky, chick-flick take on the genre does not come within coo’ee of it. As a producer, Rebel Wilson has made one of the great clangers of her bourgeoning career by having herself cast as Penny, the female version of Steve Martin’s Freddy Benson. Indulging in a lot of face-pulling and unsightly fat body gags, she is, quite frankly, not up to it. Anne Hathaway, filling Michael Caine’s part of Lawrence Jamieson, fares better, for she at least has some grasp of subtlety and, it must be said, she looks the part. Accepting that Wilson might be a vixen in the casinos of the glam-set is a bridge too far, for even the most iconoclastically leaning viewer. As the bent copper, Ingrid Oliver can’t hold a candle to Anton Rogers’s fabulous Inspector Andre, but Alex Sharp makes a decent fist of the girls’ ultimate target – and therein lies another insurmountable problem. The final twist, so well concealed and cleverly arrived at in the earlier movie, is as stale as last week’s bread when it happens this time around. All of the most memorable jokes are replicated, but without the panache – the hilarious scene in which Caine, pretending to be a doctor, tortures Martin, who is faking being a crippled Marine, has Hathaway trying to cure Wilson of her bogus blindness, but it is as flat as a tack. Along with an utter dearth of wit and zest, the new version also is different in that the two hustlers are more of your Robin Hood types – they are good girls whose wayward careers are justified by their backgrounds, whereas Freddy and Lawrence are out and out crooks. The French scenery is every bit as eye-catching, however, and Anne Dudley’s bouncy score keeps things moving when stagnation threatens. Otherwise, this is a complete dud.

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