Movie Review: David O. Russell’s “American Hustle”

Published 12/25/13 by:

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Plunging necklines, gold chains, a soundtrack boasting Elton John, and hairspray by the ton. This is the footprint of “American Hustle”; It’s what you see on the surface. As you dig in to this movie, you soon realize that it’s not your average heist flick. Most films of this genre revolve around one major heist – usually “the last big hit” before all the savvy criminals bail out and attempt to retire on a tropical island far away from their seedy pasts. Some of that rings true in “American Hustle”, but for the most part, it’s people trying to dig themselves out of the hustles gone awry.

When we meet Christian Bale’s character Irvin Rosenfeld, he’s at the peak of his hustling. He calls himself a con artist, and he meets his match in Sydney Prosser, played impeccably by Amy Adams. They are drawn to each other, and start hustling people through a loan business they set up. They’re in love, and they flaunt it in fur coats and tinted shades. The movie doesn’t really heat up until the two are caught, and forced to help the FBI sting four people in fraudulent business. This is when the hustles start layering one on top of the other. The more aggressive the FBI (specifically Bradley Cooper’s Richie DiMaso) is, and the more convoluted their operations become, Irving’s agitation arises, which leads to his romantic and professional relationship with Sydney being at risk.

Throughout the movie you’re left wondering who can trust each other, what people’s true feelings are, and what’s intentional or unintentional.  The cast is very character driven, as they all have their quirks and punchlines. Jeremy Renner was superbly cast as a blue collar New Jersey mayor trying to rebuild Atlantic City, and Louis CK is a deadpan FBI supervisor (a glorified paper pusher) whose mundaneness is noteworthy. While Bale’s performance was transcendent – I mean, I actually forgot I wasn’t in 1978, where microwaves were aptly referred to as “science ovens”, it’s Jennifer Lawrence who steals the show. Lawrence plays Bale’s neglected, house-bound, sarcastic wife. She’s hilarious, terrifying, delusional, and beautiful simultaneously. I wouldn’t be shocked if she pulled off another Golden Globe this awards season.

For those of you looking for a typical heist movie, this isn’t it. If you like good one-liners, a nice perm, and quirky characters who may con you out of a free breakfast, then this is for you.

 

Kaitlin’s Grade: B

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