I'm not sure what people expect from Hustlers.

Most folks already know that the film, based on a true story, follows a quartet of ex-strippers – led by Jennifer Lopez and Constance Wu – who hatch a plan to skim massive amounts of cash off of rich Wall Street chauvinists. Aside from that, what are audiences looking for? A clever con artist comedy? A feminist revenge fantasy? A gritty look at strip club life? Or, for the relatively few heterosexual men in the audience, a parade of female flesh? Because while Hustlers dabbles in all these things, ultimately it is none of these things.

Based on a 2015 article in New York magazine, Hustlers plays out as a faithful reenactment of said article, complete with Julia Stiles popping up as a fictitious version of its author, Jessica Pressler. (The characters' names and backgrounds have been changed; director Scafaria adapted the screenplay.) Stiles's interview segments with Wu at first come across as a routine exposition trick, a basic setup to allow Wu to narrate the proceedings. Yet Scafaria eventually uses these segments to reveal deeper truths about Wu's character Destiny (née Dorothy), which gives them weight and purpose even if Stiles isn't given much to do herself.

Some details are amped up for dramatic effect, but Hustlers maintains its journalistic tone throughout; although the film itself is slick and showy – Scafaria does a few nifty tricks with sound – it treats its characters with unexpected objectivity. The people played by Wu, Lopez, et al are shallow, materialistic crooks. Yet the film doesn't really judge them for this. Nor does it concoct much melodrama to make you sympathize for them past a basic degree. Mostly it just says, "This is the world they live in. Everyone wants money, the men don't respect the women, and the women don't respect the men." Scafaria's thesis is, in fact, explicitly stated in her final line of dialogue, which incidentally is the film's only moment that feels too on-the-nose.

Wu's performance shows markedly more depth than her breakthrough role in Crazy Rich Asians; she can anchor a feature. Lopez, who arguably hasn't had a good role in a good movie since 1998's Out of Sight, is perfectly cast: to paraphrase another reviewer, her character Ramona gets what she wants because she thinks she's Jennifer Lopez.

Hustlers is lively, satisfying entertainment that, once you get past the sex, drugs, and rock & roll, depicts the world of the hustler as a lonely one, with true friendship a rare, fleeting, desperately needed thing.