The most remake-y remake of them all.
In Hollywood, the idea of remaking a movie is anything but shocking. However, in recent years the trend has really taken off, and these days it seems like every other showing at your local theatre is a remake of a movie you remember watching the hell out of. Keep an eye out for the upcoming remakes, Men in Black: International (2019), Child’s Play (2019), and Charlie’s Angels (2019). No movie is off the table and as a result we’ve gotten some pretty good remakes like What Men Want (2019), decent ones like Ocean’s 8 (2018), and awful ones like Ghostbusters (2016). By the way, you can check out my review for What Men Want (2019) here. Look, doing a remake is always going to be an uphill battle due to people’s love of the original. It’s a given. That being said, I believe a remake truly succeeds when it takes the work it’s based on and puts its own fresh spin on it. By that criteria, The Hustle (2019) has failed on an epic scale.
A gender-flipped remake of Dirty Rotten Scoundrels (1988) – which you can check out my review for here – The Hustle follows experienced con woman Josephine Chesterfield as she swindles wealthy and gullible men out of their money in the French town of Beaumont-sur-Mer. When small-time American hustler Penny Rust arrives on the scene, Josephine removes the competition be enrolling Penny as her apprentice. Competition eventually ensues with the arrival of a young tech millionaire, as the two women see who can con him out of $500,000.
This was always going to be a difficult piece for me to write. As I said in my review, I hold a very special place in my heart for Dirty Rotten Scoundrels and wasn’t confident in the idea of a 21st century update. Apparently, the team behind The Hustle had just as little confidence.
My hand to God, this was a shot-for-shot replica of Dirty Rotten Scoundrels. Obviously the movie follows a similar plot, but then it also recycles the same dialogue, the same jokes, the same scenes, and even the same camera angles! I was sitting in the theatre going, “is this really happening? Did this movie really just copy and paste every aspect of the original movie?” That struck me as less of an homage, and more of an example of incredibly lazy film making. To be fair, there are a few obvious updates and differences such as the inclusion of smartphones and slightly new tactics used by the con artists. Other than that though, there is a severe lack of originality or freshness to be found in this bland, unfunny remake. Knowing exactly how each scene was going to play out and anticipating each punchline really sucked the fun and interest out of this movie for me.
I realize that this makes me sound like an incredible snob, but I found myself almost getting annoyed at the audience for laughing at jokes with the 100 per cent exact same setup and punchline as the original. People were losing their shit and I just wanted to scream, “no you don’t understand! They just lifted all of this from the superior original movie!” I mean, if you’re going to duplicate things shot-for-shot, word-for-word…than what was the point of this movie being made? It certainly doesn’t have anything new, insightful or memorably funny to say, and I would much rather see its likeable leads in an original movie that knows how to handle their considerable talent.
Okay, so let’s talk about Anne Hathaway and Rebel Wilson. First things first, I can’t believe the fucking nerve of this movie to name their characters “Josephine Chesterfield” and “Penny Rust” respectively. They might as well have just named them “Lady McFancy Pants” and “Normy Normal.” Also, can we talk about why Hathaway is inexplicably British? The accent was so ridiculously horrible and fake-sounding that I couldn’t believe a single word that came out of her character’s mouth. I kept thinking that the accent was going to be some part of a greater ruse, but no. It was ultimately unnecessary and unbearably awful. What wasn’t awful though was the level of commitment that Hathaway and Wilson bring to their roles. You really get the sense that they’re trying to make the movie work and to their credit, manage to land a handful of solid jokes early on. Once the characters meet though, there couldn’t be less of a tonal divide. Hathaway and Wilson act as if they’re in two starkly different movies which is upsetting, because I would have loved to see them cohesively act in this one together.
I like Hathaway and Wilson (the latter in small doses) but I don’t think they were necessarily the appropriate choices to take over for Michael Caine and Steve Martin. Caine and Martin effortlessly made their characters fun, believable and crackling with personality simply by being themselves. Hathaway and Wilson on the other hand, are way too over the top and you get the sense that they’re trying every trick in the book to get you to laugh. Oh my God, now if this movie had starred Emily Blunt and Melissa McCarthy…THAT would have been amazing. Also, this movie would have benefited from being directed by Paul Feig. I know I always say that, but first-time director Chris Addison was ill-prepared for the role. A veteran television director, Addison crafts a movie that more than once shares the same tone and stale humour as a sitcom. That type of humour cheapened the movie, making The Hustle feel like an episode of a popular sitcom that decided to copy Dirty Rotten Scoundrels for some reason. There were times where it wasn’t horrible, but much like Hathaway’s British accent, it was a bizarre choice for the movie. Seriously guys, the accent was NONSENSE.
If you haven’t seen Dirty Rotten Scoundrels, there’s a slim chance that you may end up liking this movie. You can check it out for yourself, though I still strongly recommend just watching Dirty Rotten Scoundrels. Trust me on this one. Oh, also trust me when I say that you shouldn’t bother with paying the price of admission for The Hustle. To do so would be the ultimate con.
Will you take chance on The Hustle? Have you seen Dirty Rotten Scoundrels?
Let me know in the comments or on social media!