American Hustle (2013)

Back in the 70’s, everyone had fun hair and stylish clothes (depending on your opinions). Dirty businesses thrived and corruption in bigger cities was a common thing. Despite their best efforts, the F.B.I. couldn’t take care of business in their own. So, they got wise and enlisted the help of some professional criminals. The name of the operation was ABSCAM and the goal was to take down congressmen.
Irving and "Lady Edith" go to work with their scamming.
Irving and “Lady Edith” go to work with their scamming.

Irving Rosenfeld (Christian Bale) was a professional in every sense of the word. With a unique comb-over and killer confidence, Irving scammed businessmen and also sold illegal and stolen art on the side. Upon meeting Sydney Prosser (Amy Adams), a woman bent on reinventing herself, Irving brings her into his business and also makes her his lover. While things did go well for a while, a potential client in Richie DiMaso (Bradley Cooper) takes a turn for the worst. It turns out that Richie is an F.B.I. Agent who’s in need of a couple of professionals. They can either go to jail or help set up and bust some congressmen. Clearly, they needed to hustle to stay alive.

Among the congressmen that needed to be setup, was Mayor Carmine Polito (Jeremy Renner), the people’s mayor. Having just legalized gambling in New Jersey, Polito¬†was on a mission to return Atlantic City to its former greatness. He had the best intentions, but DiMaso¬†saw things differently and was ready to make this Big case. With new covers and a ridiculous plan involving a Sheik, Irving, Lady Edith (Sydney), and Richie began wheeling and dealing with congressmen and even some Mafia members. However, when Florida Mafia boss Victor Tellegio (Robert DiNero) and Irving’s wife Rosalyn (Jennifer Lawrence) get involved, things get very complicated. Let’s just say that ABSCAM was one hell of an operation that was full of hustling.

Rosalyn and Sydney meet for the first time.
Rosalyn and Sydney meet for the first time.

Director David O. Russell has been on a hot streak in the last three years. Last year, his film Silver Linings Playbook (which stars Cooper, DeNiro, and Lawrence) was nominated for Best Picture and a handful of other awards. The year before that, O. Russell’s film The Fighter (which starts Adams and Bale) was also nominated for Best Picture and a handful of other awards. With American Hustle, it seems as if O. Russell has combined his casts and has almost struck gold yet again. While I don’t think that this film is as good as his two previous films, American Hustle is still very good and is packed with astounding performances.

Changing his accent, hair, and physique yet again, Christian Bale gives yet anther amazing performance to add to his collection. The opening sequence is just Bale applying hair on his head and perfecting his comb-over. Sporting a large belly, Bale sells the New Jersey con artist with spectacular fashion. Combined with another stellar performance from Amy Adams, the two lead this cast of greats with authentic accents and lots of emotion. The two have a great love/hate relationship that also lends a hand into their scamming. Together, they both give Oscar-worthy performances that share a part of stealing the show.

Carmine looks out for his people.
Carmine looks out for his people.

The other part of stealing the show comes with what will be regarded as Bradley Cooper and Jeremy Renner’s best performances to date. Cooper, as a Jersey Agent who uses hair curlers, is obsessed with winning and his passion for this film is undeniable. He balances funny and serious exceptionally and his character is a ton of fun. Renner, on the other hand, is mostly serious and concerned with the state of New Jersey. Renner’s character clearly cares about improving conditions and he’s a good guy. He’s did what he has to and Renner plays the part perfectly, as you really start to care for his character.

Last but not least, you can’t mention this cast without bringing up Jennifer Lawrence. Hot off her Best Actress win for Silver Linings Playbook, Lawrence yet again transforms herself into a crazy woman, this time with a bit of sleaze. Her antics and dialog are hilarious, which also speaks to how well written this film is. The look and feel of the film is convincing enough to make you believe it’s the 70’s, but the dialog puts it over the top. Whether it’s the style of someone’s speaking, or little references to older things, this film is fun, funny, and allows everyone to feel like they know the 70’s.

Irving, "Lady Edith", and Richie strut their stuff.
Irving, “Lady Edith”, and Richie strut their stuff.

As fun as most of this film is, American Hustle does have a few flat moments. Realistically, the film goes on for too long. There are many exciting and fun moments that are followed by dull scenes that drag. There’s a lot of downtime spent examining the characters reactions to events that make the fourth act lesser than its previous there. More upsetting than that, is the ending to this film. It’s not a bad ending by any means, but it lacks a big finish. The whole film is a set up for a large ending that never comes. The explaining of events also could have been better and I believe that stems from some issues that the script has with its storytelling. With arguably the best ensemble in a film this year, American Hustle succeeds on almost every level. It’s incredibly strong performances almost take it to the max, but a lackluster finale and odd story transitioning keep it from excelling further. Make no mistake; American Hustle is one of the most fun movies this year and easily stands as one of the best films this year. David O. Russell is now three-for-three and should be seeing a plethora of well-deserving nominations coming his way.

4.5 STARS!!!
4.5 / 5 stars     

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