Clint Eastwood committed a cinematic sin with “The Mule,” according to some critics.
The 2018 drama cast the icon as a codger with a 21st century flaw. He didn’t always use politically correct language.
Those transgressions proved too much for some scribes.
Regardless, hundreds of people are responsible for “The Mule,” who very much should have known better than to release this bizarre, offensive debacle. -- Katie Walsh, Tribune News Service.
There’s nothing inherently wrong with presenting bigoted people on-screen, since heaven knows they exist in real life, but the trouble with “The Mule” is that it invites audiences to laugh along with Earl’s ignorance. -- Variety.
There’s also an icky, creeping sensation of xenophobia that permeates the film. One could imagine “The Mule” being used as an argument in favor of President Trump’s proposed border wall, given its tone-deaf and one-dimensional depiction of the minorities Earl encounters.
Pearls clutched. -- RogerEbert.com
Along comes “Hustlers,” another fact-based story, and critics are singing a different tune. Heck, they’ve broken out their harmonicas and squeeze boxes.
Both “The Mule” and “Hustlers” train the spotlight on criminals. The former followed Earl Stone (based on Leo Sharp), an elderly man who becomes a drug mule to make ends meet. The latter showcases a quartet of strippers who repeatedly drug and rob clients to do the same (and buy lots of expensive toys in the process).
Critics weren’t aghast at Earl’s sudden turn to crime, necessarily. It’s his crusty language that sent them into a tizzy.
They similarly ignored the strippers’ ghastly crimes. These women could have killed somebody, and in the film’s take on the real story nearly did.
No, many critics fawned over both the film and its “heroines” in disturbing ways.
Glamorizing crime is an essential gangster movie trope. You need to see the bad guys living large to justify their actions and, eventually, their precipitous fall. It wouldn’t be as mesmerizing if these hoods whacked snitches while wearing frayed suits.
What many film critics adore about “Husters,” a film routinely compared to “Goodfellas,” is how it justifies the crimes on display. The NPR critic describes the film as “an astute commentary on the money moves we all need to make to survive.”
Yes, these four women simply have no choice but to drug and rob men … in America, the land of opportunity. There’s no Plan B.
The same critic later slams the film’s framing device, a journalist interviewing one of the strippers after the con gets busted.
We’re living in a hypercapitalist caper movie, after all, and excessive wealth accumulation will always be inherently selfish. Hustlers tries to dodge this by using a magazine reporter/framing device played by Julia Stiles, a stand-in for the audience who gets preemptively lectured for judging the con women. They needn’t have bothered. Once Lopez sets the screen on fire, she has already obliterated the line between what is stolen and what is earned. And we’re happy to play the game.
US Magazine embraces Jennifer Lopez’s character, the glamorous Ramona, as the film’s moral center. Really.
We’re all hustlers, Ramona tells her girls, so we may as well get our well-manicured hands on the money before someone else does. The crew does ultimately get their comeuppance. But breaking the rules has never seemed so fun or so necessary. (emphasis added)
The 2008 Wall Street collapse hurt millions and came about for a variety of reasons, some of which Hollywood won’t accept. What the real-life “Hustlers” did may have made emotional sense on some level, but the men they drugged and robbed weren’t personally to blame.
And these so-called Robin Hoods kept the cash for themselves.
The far-left Deadline.com reviews acknowledges what the strippers did was wrong and the film packages it in a creepy way. That didn’t stop the critic from cheering on these crooks, though.
Why? Enter Trump Derangement Syndrome.
The moral message of this film is questionable, to be sure, but watching it play out now in the Donald Trump era you just can’t help root for these women to succeed in their scam.
Parade Magazine cheers both the film’s heroines and its message.
So there’s a lot of “representation” in Hustlers, both onscreen and offscreen—women taking charge, minority actors moving to the fore, men who commodify women getting taken down, and taken to the cleaners. As a lot of people have been saying for some time, it’s about time.
Veteran critic Roger Moore calls these “Hustlers” antiheroines, but his affection for their crimes is obvious. Remember, two wrongs always make a right.
These are the She Wolves of Wall Street, working class women who screwed over The Street the way Wall Street screwed over America. And [director Lorene] Scafaria treats them as classic antiheroines, glammed-up, sisterhood strong and when the need arose — pitiless about the “Masters of the Universe” of the 2008 Great Recession, who should have been in prison when a gang of out of work pole dancers lured them into maxing out their credit cards in the years just after that.
The far left Daily Beast review reads like the director’s beloved Aunt wrote it, and then the studio surreptitiously gave it a spit polish. It ends like this:
[Star Constance] Wu, who gets top-billing, is the true lead of the film, and this is the perfect example of a supporting performance that succeeds at just that: support.
It’s the secret weapon of Hustlers, deployed from minute one: Who wouldn’t support these girls?
The Washington Post’s mash note, er review, reads like something you’d never see attached to a male-dominated movie.
In this raunchy, gloriously liberated revenge fantasy, Lopez rules with seductive, triumphant authority. Not only do we climb into her fur, we’ll happily follow her anywhere.
The UK version of Cosmopolitan notes the drug scam “unfortunately” got busted while playing up the alleged Robin Hood tropes.
Perhaps these critics simply followed the film’s marketing scheme. It’s impossible to imagine a gangster movie playing up the characters’ crimes in any way, shape or form. For “Hustlers,” the social media campaign asked audiences to show them “hustling” … whatever that means.
— Hustlers (@HustlersMovie) September 14, 2019