Hustlers (film)

Hustlers is a 2019 American black comedy crime drama film written and directed by Lorene Scafaria, based on New York magazine's 2015 article "The Hustlers at Scores: The Ex-Strippers Who Stole From (Mostly) Rich Men and Gave to, Well, Themselves" by Jessica Pressler.[5] The film stars Constance Wu, Jennifer Lopez, Julia Stiles, Keke Palmer, Lili Reinhart, Lizzo, and Cardi B. The plot follows a crew of strippers in New York City who begin to steal money by drugging stock traders and CEOs who visit their club, then running up their credit cards. Lopez is also a producer on the film through Nuyorican Productions, alongside Jessica Elbaum, Will Ferrell, and Adam McKay through their Gloria Sanchez banner.

Theatrical release poster
Directed byLorene Scafaria
Produced by
Screenplay byLorene Scafaria
Based on"The Hustlers at Scores: The Ex-Strippers Who Stole From (Mostly) Rich Men and Gave to, Well, Themselves"
by Jessica Pressler
CinematographyTodd Banhazl
Edited byKayla Emter
Distributed bySTXfilms
Release date
  • September 7, 2019 (2019-09-07) (TIFF)
  • September 13, 2019 (2019-09-13) (United States)
Running time
110 minutes[1]
CountryUnited States
Budget$20.7 million[2]
Box office$156 million[3][4]

First announced in February 2016, the film was originally set to be financed and distributed by Annapurna Pictures. However, amid financial trouble, Annapurna dropped the rights in October 2018. After STX Entertainment picked them up, much of the cast joined that fall through the following spring, and filming took place in New York City from March to May 2019.

Hustlers had its world premiere on September 7, 2019, at the Toronto International Film Festival, and was theatrically released in the United States on September 13, 2019. The film has grossed $156 million worldwide and received positive reviews from critics, with Lopez's performance singled out for praise. Hustlers was chosen by Time magazine as one of the ten best films of the year.[6] Also, Matthew Jacobs from the HuffPost ranked Hustlers as the 4th best movie of 2019.[7]


In 2014, former New York City-based stripper Destiny is invited for an interview with Elizabeth, a journalist working on a story involving Destiny's former friend and mentor, Ramona Vega.

Seven years prior, Dorothy, known by her stripper name as Destiny, is working at Moves, a strip club, to support her grandmother but is barely getting by. Mesmerized by Ramona's performance and the tips she earns, Destiny meets her on the roof of the club. Ramona agrees to take Destiny under her wing, and the two form a formidable team. Destiny enjoys newfound wealth and friendship with Ramona. A year later, the financial crisis of 2007–2008 strikes, and both women find themselves short of cash. Destiny becomes pregnant. She kicks her boyfriend out of the house shortly after their daughter's birth, and she is unable to find a new job.

With no other options, Destiny goes back to stripping. Moves has changed: the financial crisis has impacted their business, and the club is primarily staffed by immigrant women willing to perform sex acts for money, a line Destiny is unwilling to cross, but she does in a moment of desperation. She reconnects with Ramona, who introduces her to a new scheme. Along with her two protegées, Mercedes and Annabelle, Ramona targets rich men at bars, gets them drunk, and then escorts them to Moves where the girls steal their credit card numbers and charge them to their limit. Destiny joins in, and learns that Ramona uses a mix of ketamine and MDMA to impair judgment and cause memory loss in their targets, a tactic deemed worthwhile since their victims will rarely admit to being robbed by strippers.

The scheme works, and the women enjoy their new source of wealth. When some of the targets prove too aggressive for Mercedes and Annabelle to handle, Destiny suggests bringing in other girls, who are carefully trained to avoid drinking or using drugs. Ramona's partnership with Moves makes the credit card fraud lucrative for them. However, cracks start to show in their operation. Other strippers begin to emulate their strategies. Furious, Ramona cuts her business ties with Moves, and the group begins to service clients in hotel rooms or their own homes. Mercedes and Annabelle become increasingly unreliable with this new practice, so Ramona hires women with drug problems and criminal records to replace them, while Destiny balks at bringing in "junkies and criminals". Destiny's fears prove true when a client suffers a near-fatal accident and she must take him to the hospital. Meanwhile, Ramona is busy bailing out a particularly unreliable new hire, Dawn. Destiny returns home to find her grandmother has died. At the funeral, Ramona makes amends and promises to take care of Destiny from now on.

In 2014, Destiny becomes uncomfortable and stops the interview when Elizabeth insists on talking about Ramona. When Elizabeth returns home, Destiny calls and agrees to finish their conversation, recalling how her friendship with Ramona – and their crime ring – fell apart. Ramona's callousness drives a wedge between the women, and Destiny feels she can no longer justify her crimes. Dawn is picked up by the police and "flips" on her partners, while investigators manage to locate several victims and identify all of the girls. Destiny, Ramona, Annabelle, and Mercedes are arrested, but, only Destiny (thinking of her daughter) takes a plea deal. Ramona is sentenced to five years probation, while the others serve short jail sentences before being released on probation. A year later, Elizabeth visits Ramona, who is now working a retail job. Ramona reveals a childhood photo of Destiny that she keeps along with her most valued possessions. The article is published, and Elizabeth encourages Destiny to reach out to Ramona and make amends.



In February 2016, it was announced that Jessica Elbaum, Will Ferrell and Adam McKay would produce Hustlers, under their Gloria Sanchez Productions banner.[8] The film was also produced by Elaine Goldsmith-Thomas, and Jennifer Lopez through Nuyorican Productions.[9] In May 2016, Annapurna Pictures was announced to co-produce and finance the film, with the studio's Megan Ellison and Chelsea Barnard serving as executive producers. In October 2018, it was announced Annapurna had dropped the film, with STX Entertainment acquiring distribution rights to the film.[10] Annapurna allegedly dropped the film due to budget concerns.[11][12]

Hustlers was directed by Lorene Scafaria from a screenplay she wrote.[13] Upon first receiving Scafaria's script, Gloria Sanchez Productions first had Martin Scorsese in mind to direct, while also considering Adam McKay. Producer Jessica Elbaum stated that their initial approach was to "send this to the people that we’ve seen make this type of movie."[14] After Scorsese and other directors passed on the project, producers ultimately gave Scafaria, who had refused to take on other directorial projects in hopes of directing Hustlers, the green-light to direct. Scafaria convinced the producers to hire her as director with a two-minute sizzle reel she created to demonstrate her concept.[15][14] Scafaria described the "judgment that people have about strippers" as a challenge in getting the film made.[14] According to producer Elaine Goldsmith-Thomas, who was pitching Hustlers to a range of studios after Annapurna dropped it, "[the male studio executives] were a little uncomfortable. Everybody could see the commercial value of this movie, but they were like, 'Can they just drug the bad guys? Can they just do it to the people that deserve it?'"[14]


After being chosen to direct, Scafaria spent two years casting for Hustlers.[14] In August 2018, it was announced that Jennifer Lopez would star in the film.[13] Lopez was Scafaria's first choice to play Ramona, stating: "as soon as I was done, I realized, Oh my God, Ramona is Jennifer Lopez [...] It has to be her."[14] Lopez, who plays a veteran stripper in the film, began pole dance training with professional dancer and choreographer Johanna Sapakie two and a half months before filming in preparation for a scene that has Lopez performing a major solo pole dance routine without a professional stand-in.[16][17] Constance Wu joined the cast in October,[10] after putting herself on tape, noting: "I knew that my résumé at that point didn’t really have anything that would indicate that I could pull off this role."[14] In March 2019, Cardi B, Lili Reinhart, Keke Palmer, Julia Stiles, and Mercedes Ruehl joined the cast with Mette Towley and Trace Lysette in negotiations to join as well.[18] That same month, Madeline Brewer and Frank Whaley joined the cast of the film.[19] Lizzo joined the cast of the film in April 2019,[20] and Usher joined the cast in May.[21] Scafaria had the idea to cast Cardi B, a former stripper, in the film, prompting Lopez to convince her to join the project. Lopez said: "I know she knew this world better than any of us. I told her she had to do it. And I wasn’t going to take no for an answer."[14]

Filming and design

Principal photography for Hustlers began on March 22, 2019 in New York City, with the shoot lasting 29 days. Final production wrapped on May 3.[18] Scenes were also shot north of the city in New Rochelle, White Plains and at the Palisades Center.[22] According to producer Elaine Goldsmith-Thomas, the production budget for the film was $20.7 million.[2] Cameos by Usher, Lizzo, and Cardi B, were all filmed the same day.[23]

Hustlers costume designer, Mitchell Travers, defined the origins of the film's costume design and treatment in an interview with Vanity Fair magazine, stating that "I knew it [had] to absolutely floor the audience, and let them know that this is not going to be like any movie that they've seen before." Travers designed the costumes for Lopez to showcase the strength and muscle tone that Lopez amassed during her pre-Hustlers training. Without running afoul of the film's planned R rating, he dreamed up the diamond bodysuit that was essentially connected by three straps. Travers noted that "We did a lot of research and development to find something that could [stretch in every direction during Lopez's dance]. It's performance wear, and really had to work for that sequence. We did a number of fittings on it. It is tailored within an inch of its life, completely custom for her."[24][25]


The music soundtrack for Hustlers features a list of songs ranging from late 1990s R&B, dance music, indie pop, to classical interludes,[26] including Janet Jackson, Fiona Apple, Britney Spears, and Lorde. As the film's writer-director Lorene Scafaria explained, "I thought of [the film] as a musical — the songs themselves were telling a story. Most of the music choices were also written into the script, I had obviously imagined scenes to these songs, and we shot to these songs, but you never know if you're going to get the rights."[27][28] The film's music supervisor, Jason Markey, got artists from Big Sean to Bob Seger to sign-off permission to include their songs in the Hustlers soundtrack; however, the film deliberately does not feature any songs from the catalogs of Jennifer Lopez, Cardi B, or Lizzo. Markey noted that, "We didn't have a score, either; every song made a statement about the scene." [29]


The teaser trailer for Hustlers premiered online on July 17, 2019.[30] The full theatrical trailer premiered online on September 3, 2019.[31]

Hustlers held its world premiere at the Toronto International Film Festival on September 7, 2019.[32] It was theatrically released in the United States on September 13, 2019.[33]


The film was banned outright from release in Malaysia, and has received censorship in several Asian countries. The film was denied a clearance certificate by the Malaysian Film Censorship Board (LPF), for showing what officials called "excessive obscene content."[34]


Box office

As of December 16, 2019, Hustlers has grossed $105 million in the United States and Canada, and $51 million in other territories, for a worldwide total of $156 million.[3][4]

In the United States and Canada, the film was released alongside The Goldfinch, and was projected to gross $25–30 million from 3,250 theaters in its opening weekend.[35] The film made $13.1 million on its first day, including $2.5 million in Thursday night previews.[36][37] It was the biggest single day gross in STX Entertainment's history.[38] The film went on to debut to $33.2 million, finishing second behind holdover It Chapter Two; the opening marked the most successful in STX's history and the best of Lopez's live-action career.[39] The audience breakdown of the opening weekend was 67% female, including 69% being over the age of 25.[40] It dropped 49% in its second weekend to $16.8 million, finishing in fifth, and made $11.5 million in its third weekend, jumping to third.[41][42]

Critical response

On Rotten Tomatoes, the film holds an approval rating of 88% based on 315 reviews, with an average rating of 7.31/10. The site's critical consensus reads: "Led by a career-best performance from Jennifer Lopez, Hustlers is a uniquely empowering heist drama with depth and intelligence to match its striking visual appeal."[46] On Metacritic, the film has a weighted average score of 79 out of 100, based on 44 critics, indicating "generally favorable reviews".[47] Audiences polled by CinemaScore gave the film an average grade of "B–" on an A+ to F scale, and those at PostTrak gave it an average 3.5 out of 5 stars and a 50% "definite recommend".[40]

Christy Lemire rated the film 3 stars, describing Hustlers as "Goodfellas in a G-string, but Scafaria’s film is always a blast to watch, resulting in a surprising level of emotional depth." Lemire also described it as "Lopez's best screen work since her early heyday of Selena and Out of Sight..." and a " performance."[43] Kate Erbland of IndieWire rated Hustlers an A- and describes the film as "funny, empowering, sexy, emotional, and a bit scary. The Oscar chatter for Lopez's revelatory, nuanced, and emotional turn as a brilliant con artist and better exotic dancer is no joke."[48] Variety's Peter DeBruge writes, "flashy, fleshy and all-around impossible to ignore, Hustlers amounts to nothing less than a cultural moment, inspired by an outrageous New York Magazine profile... adapted by writer-director Scafaria at her most Scorsese, and starring Jennifer Lopez like you've never seen her before."[49]

Justin Chang, writing for the Los Angeles Times, describes the film as "brassy and invigorating" stating that "Scafaria's clear-eyed grasp of that distinction that makes Hustlers more than just a girls-gone-wild cautionary tale, a peekaboo parade or a hypocritical amalgam of the two. The movie's empathy for its leads and its wholly justified rage against the architects of financial collapse is held in check by the knowledge that every hustle has its collateral damage."[44] The Guardian's Benjamin Lee, rated the film 4 out of 5 stars, stating that "even when films have focused on strippers as something other than window dressing, they've still been written and directed by men and have smoothed over rougher edges, turning them all into titillating one-note archetypes. Instead, Scafaria views the strip club like any other workplace, filled with internal politics and an ever-changing hierarchy of power."[50] Also reviewing Hustlers for The Guardian, Simran Hans writes, "Brilliantly, though, the editing is teasing rather than explicit; Scafaria offers just enough of the girls and their bodies to get pulses racing without exploiting them or their story."[51] Beandrea July of The Hollywood Reporter stated that "Hustlers delivers on its hype while consistently doing the unexpected. Scafaria, whose last pic was the Susan Sarandon vehicle The Meddler (2015), excels at immersing the audience in the world of sex-work in clubs, quietly disabusing us scene by scene of any stereotypes about who these women are. Part workplace dramedy, part revenge fantasy, the film weaves together a series of satisfying, organic-feeling turns."[52]

Emily Todd VanDerWerff of Vox writes "as you're distracted by all that razzle-dazzle and the movie's many, many great jokes, Hustlers is quietly composing some deeply profound thoughts about the relationships women build with each other. These ideas percolate in the background of the film and only reach a full boil in its final act. Scafaria prefers a light touch to anything that might overpower the momentum."[53] Brennan Carley of GQ called the film the best movie of 2019 to date, and writes "starting with a bang is one thing, though; maintaining that energy throughout its entire run-time is what makes this strippers-turned-criminals flick such a masterful feat."[54] Rolling Stone's film critic Peter Travers rated the film 4 out of 5 stars, stating that, "Hustlers doesn't pussyfoot about what goes on in those 'champagne rooms' off stage. The intent is not to exploit but to show how women manage to live and work in a predatory man's world", adding that "in Scafaria's fiercely funny provocation of a film — there's no running from the shadows — it's the women who seize control."[45]

IndieWire's annual TIFF Critics Survey of the 2019 best films and performances at the festival ranked Lopez's performance the best female performance as well as the fourth best performance among movies premiered at TIFF.[55] On Time's annual best performances of the year list, Stephanie Zacharek ranked Lopez as the second best film performance of 2019.[56] Also, A.O. Scott from The New York Times ranked Lopez as one of the 10 Best Actors of 2019.[57] On IndieWire's annual best film performances by actresses, both Lopez and Wu are ranked in the TOP 20 list.[58]


Award Date of ceremony Category Recipient(s) Result Ref.
Toronto International Film Festival September 7, 2019 Creative Coalition's Spotlight Initiative Award Keke Palmer Won [59]
Rome Film Festival October 27, 2019 BNL People's Choice Award Hustlers Nominated [60]
Gotham Awards December 2, 2019 Best Feature Hustlers Nominated [61]
National Film & TV Awards December 3, 2019 Best Actress Jennifer Lopez Won [62]
New York Film Critics Online Awards December 7, 2019 Top 10 Films Hustlers Won [63]
Philadelphia Film Critics Awards December 8, 2019 Best Supporting Actress Jennifer Lopez Runner-up [64]
Washington D.C. Area Film Critics Association Awards December 8, 2019 Best Supporting Actress Jennifer Lopez Won [65]
Women Film Critics Circle Awards December 9, 2019 Best Movie About Women Hustlers Nominated [66]
Best Movie by a Woman Hustlers Nominated
Best Screen Couple Jennifer Lopez & Constance Wu Runner-up
Adrienne Shelly Award Hustlers Runner-up
Delmarva Film Critics Association Awards December 10, 2019 Best Supporting Actress Jennifer Lopez Runner-up [67]
Chicago Film Critics Association Awards December 14, 2019 Best Adapted Screenplay Lorene Scafaria Nominated [68]
Best Supporting Actress Jennifer Lopez Nominated
Phoenix Critics Circle Awards December 14, 2019 Best Supporting Actress Jennifer Lopez Nominated [69]
Oklahoma Film Critics Circle Awards December 15, 2019 Best Supporting Actress Jennifer Lopez Won [70]
San Francisco Bay Area Film Critics Circle Awards December 16, 2019 Best Adapted Screenplay Lorene Scafaria Nominated [71]
Best Supporting Actress Jennifer Lopez Won
Seattle Film Critics Society Awards December 16, 2019 Best Supporting Actress Jennifer Lopez Won [72]
Vancouver Film Critics Circle Awards December 16, 2019 Best Supporting Actress Jennifer Lopez Nominated [73]
Indiana Film Journalists Association December 16, 2019 Best Film Hustlers Nominated [74]
Best Adapted Screenplay Lorene Scafaria Nominated
Best Director Lorene Scafaria Nominated
Best Supporting Actress Jennifer Lopez Won
Dallas–Fort Worth Film Critics Association December 16, 2019 Best Supporting Actress Jennifer Lopez Runner-up [75]
IndieWire Critics' Poll December 16, 2019 Best Supporting Actress Jennifer Lopez Runner-up [76]
Best Screenplay Lorene Scafaria 19th place
Dublin Film Critics' Circle Awards December 17, 2019 Best Film Hustlers (tie with High Life) 8th place [77]
Best Actress Jennifer Lopez 9th place
Best Director Lorene Scafaria 9th place
Best Screenplay Lorene Scafaria 10th place
DiscussingFilm Critic Awards December 18, 2019 Best Supporting Actress Jennifer Lopez Pending [78]
Online Association of Female Film Critics Awards December 23, 2019 Best Adapted Screenplay Lorene Scafaria Pending [79]
Best Supporting Actress Jennifer Lopez Pending
The Rosie Hustlers Pending
Greater Western New York Film Critics Awards December 30, 2019 Best Supporting Actress Jennifer Lopez Pending [80]
Palm Springs International Film Festival Gala January 2, 2020 Spotlight Award Jennifer Lopez Won [81]
Golden Globe Awards January 5, 2020 Best Supporting Actress – Motion Picture Jennifer Lopez Pending [82]
Hollywood Critics Association Awards January 9, 2020 Best Adapted Screenplay Lorene Scafaria Pending [83]
Best Female Director Lorene Scafaria Pending
Best Supporting Actress Jennifer Lopez Pending
Make-Up Artists and Hair Stylists Guild Awards January 11, 2020 Feature-Length Motion Picture - Best Contemporary Make-Up Margot Boccia, Roxanne Rizzo Pending [84]
Feature-Length Motion Picture - Best Contemporary Hair Styling Angel De Angelis, Dierdre Harris Pending
AARP The Magazine's Annual Movies for Grownups Awards January 11, 2020 Best Supporting Actress Jennifer Lopez Pending [85]
Critics' Choice Movie Awards January 12, 2020 Best Supporting Actress Jennifer Lopez Pending [86]
Screen Actors Guild Awards January 19, 2020 Outstanding Performance by a Female Actor in a Supporting Role Jennifer Lopez Pending [87]
Costume Designers Guild Awards January 2020 Excellence in Contemporary Film Mitchell Travers Pending [88]
Los Angeles Film Critics Association Awards January 2020 Best Supporting Actress Jennifer Lopez Won
London Film Critics' Circle Awards January 30, 2020 Supporting Actress of the Year Jennifer Lopez Pending [90]
Black Reel Awards February 6, 2020 Outstanding Costume Design Mitchell Travers Pending [91]
Independent Spirit Awards February 8, 2020 Best Director Lorene Scafaria Pending [92]
Best Supporting Female Jennifer Lopez Pending
Best Cinematography Todd Banhazl Pending
Satellite Awards February 2020 Best Motion Picture, Comedy or Musical Hustlers Pending [93]
Best Actress in Motion Picture, Comedy or Musical Constance Wu Pending
Best Supporting Actress – Motion Picture Jennifer Lopez Pending


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