Published on January 18th, 2014 | by Allan Brown6
American Hustle Review
Movie Review: American Hustle (2014)
Running Time: 138 mins
Director: David O. Russell
Writers: Eric Singer, David O. Russell
Cast: Christian Bale, Amy Adams, Bradley Cooper, Jeremy Renner, Jennifer Lawrence, Louis C.K.
Plot: A con man, Irving Rosenfeld, along with his seductive British partner, Sydney Prosser, is forced to work for a wild FBI agent, Richie DiMaso. DiMaso pushes them into a world of Jersey powerbrokers and mafia.
Hot off the heels of his two previous Oscar winning films; The Fighter and Silver Linings Playbook (Review), director David O’Russell is back with a Scorsese-esque crime romp that reunites him with his cast of regulars, who are, quite simply…on fire!
American Hustle (Trailer Here) is loosely based on the 1978 -1980 FBI ABSCAM Sting Operation, that led to the conviction of a US Senator, members of the House of Representatives, a mayor and many other high profile public sector figures.
David O’Russell’s version of the scandal however, is painted in a much lighter tone than one you might expect. No sooner has the main title hit the screen are we presented with the headline “Some of this actually happened”, and that one line alone sets the tone and hue of the whole film perfectly.
The story follows Irvine Rosenfeld (Christian Bale), a seasoned con-man who despite his tired appearance is a man at the top of his game. Then there is his lover and partner in crime, Sydney Prosser (Amy Adams). Despite their rather small con-syndicate, they are successful due to the fact they stay small, avoiding the lure of the big game and the pitfalls that come with it. However, despite their cautious play, their world too eventually comes crashing down when undercover FBI agent Richie DiMaso (Bradley Cooper) catches them out. When it looks like Sydney could be facing some serious jail time, DiMaso offers them a deal, a deal that would see them work for the FBI under DiMaso’s instruction in a bid to bring down powerful government officials and heads of state, like Mayor Carmine Polito (Jeremy Renner) in return for their own survival.
Very seldom will you witness such a rich cast that are not only in sync, but complement each other perfectly.
But then there is Rosalyn (Jennifer Lawrence), Rosenfeld’s erratic, manipulative and wildly unpredictable wife, the fly in the ointment that just might be enough to rumble the whole operation.
First and foremost, credit must be given to David O’Russell for the ensemble he has brought together for American Hustle. Not only does each and every cast member sizzle on screen, but offer some of the best collective performances and character acting in recent times. Very seldom will you witness such a rich cast that are not only in sync, but complement each other perfectly.
Amy Adams and Jennifer Lawrence showcase their prowess, once again proving themselves as two of the most courageous actress’s in the business today. Jennifer Lawrence is the fire cracker in the story, the wild card. Her role is used mostly as a plot device in the narrative but she brings a fire and role and is responsible for much of the laughs. Amy Adams’ seductive and complex game of manipulation is executed superbly; her performance will have you guessing which side of the desk she truly is on until the films conclusion.
However, it is the film narrative that doesn’t quite deliver the punch we’d all hoped for, and by the end is ultimately left in the shadow cast by its colourful characters.
Bradley Cooper also shines on screen offering what is perhaps his most defined performance to date. From his dramatic outbursts that are heated and intense to the ensuing power struggles between his character DiMaso and Bales Rosenfield that provide the most memorable, captivating and truly comedic moments in the film. He is an actor that surprises and intrigues me more and more with each role and is fully deserved of his Oscar nomination here.
Jeremy Renner also delivers a solid performance as Mayor Carmine, offering a sincerity and likeability crucial to the role. He too is an actor I relish to watch growing in talent with each performance.
However, it is Christian Bale that once again steals the show. Renowned for his commitment and physical transformation for a role, he instantly amazes with what is another complete physical overhaul. Batman is long gone, in his place we have an overweight, bald – with intriguing comb-over, middle aged con-man from the Bronx. Bales creation of the character is executed wonderfully, it is a role that could have easily have been over played, but bale restrains the temptation of making him an easy con-man caricature, instead grounding the character in a more realistic tone. His performance astounds and elevates each and every scene he is part off. Another well deserved Oscar nomination for one of the finest actors of his generation.
The film also shines in other areas, namely its beautifully crafted screenplay and especially in its dialogue. However, it is the film narrative that doesn’t quite deliver the punch we’d all hoped for, and by the end is ultimately left in the shadow cast by its colourful characters.
And while many homage’s and tributes are paid to the great Martin Scorsese along the way, with nods to Mean Streets, Casino and Goodfellas, the cinematography is sadly just too simplistic to come close to these great mile stones in modern film.
Summary: Despite its few shortcomings David O’Russell has crafted another fantastic character piece, that dances skilfully between the lines of drama and comedy, anchored by an outstanding cast, all of whom have never been so good.