HUSTLERS (15) Four stars

Depending on how much of the promotional material you may have seen, Hustlers could be a very different beast from the film you were expecting.

Anyone who had watched the trailer could be forgiven for thinking it is a just another heist movie or run-of-the-mill comedy.

While Hustlers certainly has those elements, at its core it is a story about female friendships and what is permissible for women to do to get ahead in a man’s world.

It is far more a drama than comedy and one particularly moving scene towards the end could have you reaching for a tissue.

Loosely based on a true story, Hustlers follows a group of New York City strippers who resort to ripping off their clients after falling on hard times in the wake of the 2008 financial crash.

The film boasts a star-studded cast, with Crazy Rich Asians actress Constance Wu playing struggling single mother Dorothy, who strips under the name Destiny.

Jennifer Lopez steals the show as veteran dancer Ramona Vega, who takes Destiny under her wing and eventually lures her into a life of crime.

Former child star Keke Palmer and Riverdale’s Lili Reinhart take supporting roles while Cardi B’s much-publicised involvement is in fact an all-too-brief cameo, though a typically colourful one.

Similarly, pop star Lizzo is a fleeting but memorable presence.

Hustlers’ central narrative focuses on the relationship between Lopez, 50, and Wu, 37. Lopez, playing a maternal figure, showcases the many strings to her bow. She is equally at home showing off her impressively toned body while dancing on a pole as she is having a heart-to-heart with the young women who look up to her.

Wu also puts in a strong performance, convincing as the hard-up mother prepared to go to extreme lengths to provide for her daughter. The story is told through flashback, with Julia Stiles - perhaps best known for her role in 1999 teen romance 10 Things I Hate About You - starring as a journalist interviewing Wu about her past as a hustler.

Lorene Scafaria, who wrote the script and directed the film, begins by framing the strippers as Robin Hood-type characters, robbing the undeservedly rich bankers of Wall Street.

However, viewers are forced to question the morality of Lopez and co when they start ripping off men who may not be so one-dimensional.

Wu’s character suffers a crisis of conscience when the gang empty the bank account of a kind-hearted architect.

Having said that, the viewer is left with the feeling that, while these are women doing bad things, they’re not necessarily bad women. All in all, Hustlers’ strong script combined with the memorable performances of Wu and Lopez make for a film well worth watching.

DOWNTON ABBEY (PG) Three stars

Towards the dewy-eyed conclusion of Downton Abbey, a handsomely appointed return to the award-winning period drama created by Julian Fellowes, Lady Mary (Michelle Dockery) considers bidding a hearty cheerio to her ancestral home.

“What are we doing? Should we really go on with it?” she ponders aloud.

It’s a fair question, not just for the heiress apparent as she contemplates her future, but also for Michael Engler’s film, which seeks to recapture the guilty pleasure of a TV phenomenon that chronicled the wavering fortunes of the Crawley family across six series from the sinking of HMS Titanic in 1912 to New Year’s Day 1926.

Ardent fans can unstiffen their upper lips with relief because the glassware gleams and the bone china is lustrous in this crowd-pleasing frippery of froth, which assiduously ties up loose narrative threads and unpicks a few new ones.

Cinematographer Ben Smithard captures the Jacobethan splendour of Highclere Castle, the real-life Downton Abbey, in every conceivable flattering light while Fellowes serves up bite-size morsels of intrigue and romance to generate a steady trickle of conflicts, resolutions and cliffhangers.

He makes no concession to newcomers to his rarefied world and expects a passable knowledge of the characters.

His script arms Dame Maggie Smith with the lioness’ share of biting one-liners and she delivers with lip-smacking relish.

Lord Grantham (Hugh Bonneville) and his wife (Elizabeth McGovern) receive written communication from Buckingham Palace via motorcycle messenger, informing them of the arrival of King George V (Simon Jones) and Queen Mary (Geraldine James).

“They’ll spend one night in Downton then move onto Harewood for a ball,” discloses the master of the house.

The visit is part of a royal tour of Yorkshire, which will reunite the King and Queen with their daughter, Mary, Princess Royal (Kate Phillips).

Thomas Barrow (Robert James-Collier), who has replaced Mr Carson (Jim Carter) as head butler, briefs the staff including housekeeper Mrs Hughes (Phyllis Logan), Lady Mary’s maid Mrs Bates (Joanne Froggatt) and cook Mrs Patmore (Lesley Nicol). Preparations are in full swing when Lady Edith (Laura Carmichael) and her husband (Harry Hadden-Paton) arrive for the ceremonial parade and dinner.

However, excitement is spiced with nervous anticipation because the Queen’s lady in waiting, Lady Bagshaw (Imelda Staunton), is a troublesome thorn on the Crawley family tree.

Shadowed by her maid Lucy (Tuppence Middleton), Maud proves a formidable sparring partner for the Dowager Countess (Smith) and Baroness Merton (Dame Penelope Wilton). Downton Abbey is comfortingly and disappointingly familiar, welcoming back most of the main cast plus Scottish composer John Lunn to underscore every twitch of a hemline with swooning orchestrations. The film’s narrative structure is three back-to-back TV episodes, minus the anachronistic adverts, and reserves the emotional meat for a poignant final 20 minutes that might require a dainty dabbing of eyes.

FOR SAMA (18) Three stars

A mother makes extraordinary sacrifices for her young daughter in an award-winning documentary. Before the Syrian Civil War in 2011, Aleppo was the most populous city in the western Asian republic. Years of conflict and bloodshed have torn the city apart, pitting the government controlled by President Bashar al-Assad against various opposition forces.

During this volatile period, resident Waad al-Kateab captured life on the ground with her camera. Her raw and revealing footage chronicles personal milestones including falling in love, getting married and giving birth to her daughter Sama.

Waad suddenly faces the choice between leaving the city to protect Sama or continuing the fight for freedom.