Yes, it's a remake, of “Dirty Rotten Scoundrels” (1988), starring Michael Caine and Steve Martin and Glenn Headly, but actually, that was a remake, also, of “Bedtime Story” (1964), starring David Niven and Marlon Brando and Shirley Jones.  The plot is the same:  a smooth, sophisticated con artist meets a low-class hustler, and they decide to test their skills by seeing who can romance “the mark” the fastest.

            In “Hustle,” the 2019 version, we have Anne Hathaway and Rebel Wilson, both vying to con Alex Sharp.  It's a lot of sight gags and silliness, the kind of light-hearted fun that doesn't involve comic book action heroes or sci-fi extravaganzas or CGI-enhanced action sequences.  In fact, this movie could have been made in 1988 or 1964 and we wouldn't have known the difference.  Which is also why it fails to completely engage the viewer.  The main characters might be the smartest people in the room in their own eyes, but they fail to charm us or amuse us.  There's very little heart.  Rebel Wilson's character does start to feel sorry for fleecing her mark, when she finds out how sincere he is, but that weakness is only temporary.  They depend on greed and gullibility and deception to prey on others, and they're not winsome enough for us to care whether they get away with it or not.  There's no romance, and there's no emotional connection to the viewers.  There won't be any clamoring for sequels.

            “Dirty Rotten Scoundrels,” Directed by Frank Oz, won a Golden Globe nomination for Michael Caine.  This gender-reversal remake isn't nearly up to those standards.


Dr. Ronald P. Salfen, DFW Film Critics Association