American Hustle

December 20, 2013 By Mike B
Movie Review

American Hustle Film Review

What Worked?

A con is just the truth wrapped up in a lie. David O’Russell takes us into a web of lies weaved by the FBI, con artists, politicians, and the mob in his latest film, American Hustle. Coming off an amazing Oscar nominated romantic comedy film, Silver Linings Playbook, O’Russell goes another route and dives into the lives of professional liars. Once again, he rounds up a flawless roster, consisting of Christian Bale, Jennifer Lawrence, Bradley Cooper, Amy Adams, Jeremy Renner, and Robert DeNiro. The messy tale tells the story of Irvin Rosenfeld and Sydney Prosser, two con artists that get caught by FBI agent Richie DiMaso, where they strike a deal with the FBI to get off the hook through bringing in dirty politicians.

Director O’Russell gives us a very entertaining film that moves with a hop in it’s step. The script is witty and clever, but also humanizes these hustlers to the point where the audience can relate to their cause. Everyone’s human if you peel back the layers of filth, and this film is successful in doing so. There are plenty of insightful moments and lines in this film, but more than anything, it’s hilarious. The wardrobe and makeup accentuate the characters’ personalities perfectly, and really capture the 70s glam rather well. O’Russell’s cinematic eye incorporates abrupt close-ups, tracking shots, and some feverish disco music. It’s as if he’s trying to do an impression of Martin Scorsese, and although it isn’t exactly Scorsese, he can’t be put down for trying. In trying, O’Russell injects his own style and comes up with another winner.

Everyone in this film shines, and is given enough screen-time to be memorable. There’s too many characters to acknowledge, but there are a few highlights that stick out. Academy Award winner Christian Bale gives another Oscar-worthy performance, this time playing Irving Rosenfeld, a con artist with confidence that outshines his disgusting exterior. Bale really rounds out this character well, as Irving develops a heart, and tries to be real; sort of like a fat, balding, slimy Pinocchio with shades and a cigar. Irving’s right-hand woman is Sydney, played wonderfully by Amy Adams. She portrays the manipulative Sydney, with her fake British accent and alluring manner, in a way in which we can feel for her situation. She’s torn between what she believes and what is real, and it seems as she feeds off of her own vulnerability. The last major highlight is Bradley Cooper as FBI agent Richie DiMaso. DiMaso could’ve been a con-artist if he didn’t earn a badge with his bravado and aggressive drive. DiMaso’s character is also one that is humanized, especially because he desperately want’s to be somebody. 

Out of all the supporting characters, Jennifer Lawrence playing Irving’s wife, Roselyn, takes the cake. Roselyn is a character that’s hilariously entertaining onscreen, but a person you wouldn’t want to hang out with in real life. Lawrence is alive in her attractive tackiness, and wins you over with all her ridiculous rants. Jeremy Renner, playing Mayor Carmine Polito, also gives a noteworthy supporting performance, playing a politician that does dirty deeds for the “good of the people.” There are also minor players that shine as well, including Robert DeNiro as mob boss Victor Tellagio, and Louis C.K. as an FBI supervisor that likes ice fishing.

American Hustle tells the tale of con artists that want so desperately to believe in their lies. Irving says that nothing is in black and white; everything is extremely gray. He continues to say that we’re all con artists in one way or another, and that we even con ourselves into believing what we want to believe. That’s where the film’s heart lies, in those true, gritty words of wisdom. We believe what we want to believe, and if we believe in a lie enough it might be real for the moment, but sometimes we believe in a lie so much that it becomes the truth.

Potential Drawbacks:

Walking out of the theater, I heard some teenagers ask this: “where was the action?” So, I guess if you’re looking for an action movie, American Hustle might be a bad choice.

Some may think that the film is a little shallow, and doesn’t beef up its characters enough. There are plenty of characters, and they all do get enough screen-time, but cutting back on the focus of some might have made it more effective. The point of the film isn’t clear as well, as O’Russell doesn’t drive that home with one last hammer strike. For some people that’s confusing, and for others it may be comforting.

It will get plenty of comparisons to Scorsese because of the voice-over narration, criminal setting, and camera style. If you compare it to Scorsese’s gangster films, it won’t look like much, but on its own it will shine.

Film Recommendations:

The Invention of Lying

Silver Linings Playbook

The Fighter 


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