American Hustle is a lot of things. It’s smart. It’s sexy. It’s cool. It’s intimate. It’s thrilling. But most of all, it’s genius. Director David O. Russell (Silver Linings Playbook, The Fighter) once again hits a home run, delivering a movie chock full of thrills, humor, and inventiveness. With a cast that includes such names as Christian Bale, Jennifer Lawrence, Bradley Cooper, and Amy Adams, American Hustle serves up a fresh and fun dramedy, loosely based on the 1970s sting known as ABSCAM. It’s a fun and unique film that shouldn’t be passed up.
American Hustle stars Christian Bale as Irving Rosenfeld, a small-time businessman turned con artist. He meets Sydney Prosser (Amy Adams), and the two become business partners under a fake name, despite Irving’s marriage to Rosalyn Rosenfeld (Jennifer Lawrence). The two are approached by Richie Di Maso (Bradley Cooper), an FBI agent who fell for one of their scams. He is willing to offer them a free pass if he helps them arrest four notorious con artists. Thus begins American Hustle, as the characters are thrust into a city full of crime, parties, and politics. They do business with a wide variety of faces, from New Jersey mayor Carmine Polito (Jeremy Renner) to mob boss Victor Tellegio (Robert DeNiro). As Di Maso draws them in, Rosenfeld’s relationship with Prosser as well as his wife turns out to be his biggest demon, turning the film into a dark personal drama.
American Hustle manages to tell both a complicated story, as well as a captivating one. At times I was a little confused as to what was happening, but O. Russell manages to make you feel smart and engaged in the film, all while answering your questions for you. He has been on quite a roll lately with hits, and American Hustle is just another brick in that wall of fame. Where Hustle really shines is its eccentric cast of characters, over saturated with 70s style and oozing with personality.
At center stage is Irving Rosenfeld. Christian Bale commands the role with the urgency it demands, and he gives one of his best performances to date. With his combover hair and his Atlantic accent, Rosenfeld is an unforgettable character. Amy Adams also shines as Sydney. She is cunning, sexy, and will do whatever it takes to make this deal. But the best female role goes to Jennifer Lawrence as Irving’s wife. She has some of the best lines in the film, from her dealings with her son to her improper use of a microwave oven (“science oven,” she calls it). Lawrence is a bonafide actress, playing such a mature character at such a young age, and she is a frontrunner for another Academy Award. Bradley Cooper also delivers as Di Maso. He’s shady, but quite a presence on screen, as he tricks his way in and out of situations. With a memorable perm hairstyle, he’s hard to forget. A small supporting cast of Jeremy Renner as the mayor and Robert DeNiro as a mob boss help round out this goofy cast of characters in the gritty world of white-collar crime.
Where American Hustle really radiates is in its juxtaposition of the two genres, comedy and drama. While the Golden Globes classified it as “comedy,” American Hustle straddles the line quite equally. A deep personal drama between Rosenfeld and his wife is played up against some laugh out loud party scenes with Di Maso and Polito. It’s a tight balance that American Hustle plays well. These brief moments of comedy keep you interested in the plot while the drama plays out, allowing you to feel like an active participant in the film.
Everything in American Hustle is coated in that 1970s style, cool and groovy and stylish. The production value was off the charts, and everything from the set design to the ridiculous costumes to the outlandish hairstyles is just brimming with fashion. The soundtrack features such classics like “Live and Let Die,” and other ’70s hits, while the score fits the mood just nice.
American Hustle is a strange kind of masterpiece. Part comedy, part drama, but director David O. Russell puts it all together with his seal of quality, with a fantastic cast and an unforgettable story.
Overall: 4 stars out of 4
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