With a humorous disclaimer about how some of the stuff in the movie actually happened, American Hustle will grab your attention from the start and never let go. It’s got that cool 1970s vibe, an appealing mix of comedy and drama, and offers up lots of twists and turns.
The movie is based loosely on the FBI Abscam operation of the late 1970s, where FBI agents and con artists would join together to take down corrupt politicians.
The all-star cast of Christian Bale, Amy Adams, Bradley Cooper and Jennifer Lawrence each shine in their roles, but Lawrence is definitely the standout, with maybe Bale close behind.
Lawrence’s role here is a total 180 from all of her other roles, especially Katniss from The Hunger Games. Lawrence might need to make room on her mantle for a few more awards this year. She’s already been nominated for a Golden Globe and a Screen Actors Guild award, and an Oscar nod seems highly likely. Though since she won many Best Actress trophies just a year ago for Silver Linings Playbook, it’s hard to predict how many nominations will turn into wins for her this year.
Almost unrecognizable is Bale, who gained 40 pounds for the role of Irving Rosenfeld, and rocks an odd hairpiece/combover combination. Irving is certainly unattractive by conventional standards, but there’s something charming about this con man, and it’s easy to see how the aimless Sydney Prosser (Amy Adams) is drawn to him. When Irving reveals that he’s a con man to Sydney, she throws caution to the wind and becomes his partner, taking on a fake British accent to make their cons more believable.
Soon, their small-time scam operation is caught, and they are forced to work for the unpredictable FBI agent, Richie DiMaso (Cooper), who has big dreams of taking down politicians. Richie needs help from Irving and Sydney to set up his No. 1 target, family man and popular Camden mayor and New Jersey Assemblyman Carmine Polito (Jeremy Renner). Now that casinos are legal in Jersey, Carmine is a little too desperate to build Atlantic City into the Vegas of the East.
Also shaking things up is Irving’s unpredictable wife, Rosalyn, (Lawrence), who threatens to bring down the whole operation. Though her role isn’t as big as those of Bale, Cooper and Adams, Lawrence steals every scene she is in.
If you enjoyed David O. Russell’s previous films (including The Fighter and Silver Linings Playbook), you’ll definitely like this one, which reunites him with some of his cast from both flicks (Bale and Adams were in The Fighter while Cooper and Lawrence were in Silver Linings Playbook).
I would have liked a more dramatic, off-kilter ending, but aside from that I really didn’t see much more room for improvement on this solid flick. It seemed to me that this movie focused more on the characters and their interactions rather than telling a great story. It’s still a good story, but falls just a hair short of excellence. ••
Movie Grade: A-