Led by a career-best performance from Jennifer Lopez, Hustlers follows a crew of savvy former strip club employees who band together to turn the tables on their Wall Street clients.
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.
In 2014, former New York City-based stripper Dorothy is invited for an interview with Elizabeth, a journalist working on a story involving Dorothy’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 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. 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 bring 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 muses that Destiny was the only person she could trust, revealing a picture of her friend 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.