American Hustle (2013)

American Hustle (2013)
  • Time: 129 min
  • Genre: Crime | Drama
  • Director: David O. Russell
  • Cast: Jennifer Lawrence, Christian Bale, Amy Adams, Bradley Cooper, Jeremy Renner


A fictional film set in the alluring world of one of the most stunning scandals to rock our nation, American Hustle tells the story of brilliant con man Irving Rosenfeld, who along with his equally cunning and seductive partner Sydney Prosser, is forced to work for a wild FBI agent Richie DiMaso. DiMaso pushes them into a world of Jersey powerbrokers and mafia that’s as dangerous as it is enchanting. Carmine Polito is the mayor of Camden, the passionate, volatile, New Jersey political operator caught between the con-artists and Feds. Irving’s unpredictable wife Rosalyn could be the one to pull the thread that brings the entire world crashing down.


  • American Hustle is the fictionalized retelling of the real-life FBI operation called ‘ABSCAM’, which ran during the late 70s/early 80s, and which result was the conviction of one U.S. senator and six members of the U.S. House of Representatives – they were sentenced for accepting bribes from a FBI agent who was posing as a sheikh. During the investigation, the FBI were aided by a convicted con artist, named Melvin Weinberg. A film adaptation of this event was originally planned in the early 80s, but it failed to reach the big screen up until 2013, when David O. Russell sat in the director’s chair and gave the world a very loose adaptation of the story – so loose that the opening title card in the movie says only that ‘some of this actually happened’.

    Set in the late 70s, American Hustle follows a pair of con artists/lovers – Irving Rosenfeld (Christian Bale) and Sydney Prosser (Amy Adams) – who ran a small con operation. One day they get arrested by the FBI and are soon given a choice, by the young and idealistic agent Richie DiMaso (Bradley Copper), who says he’ll let them go, if they help him perform 4 white collar busts. Irving and Sydney reluctantly accept their offer, and make a plan which involves a made up Arab sheikh, and which will hopefully attract other con artists for DiMaso to arrest.

    American Hustle is like a postcard from the golden age of Hollywood, it reeks of old Scorsese movies (Goodfellas comes to mind first), and while others may consider American Hustle a rip off because of this, I found this movie to be a stylish, beautiful throwback to a time when mainstream movies were somewhat better than today. In this movie, the director David O. Russell collaborates with almost everyone he has collaborated before: Bradley Cooper and Jennifer Lawrence starred in his critically acclaimed, but in my opinion somewhat flawed, Silver Linings Playbook, and Christian Bale and Amy Adams starred in The Fighter. These casting choices are amazing, since everyone fits their characters and roles perfectly. Christian Bale, who has (once again) undergone incredible body transformations in preparation for his role, is memorable and great as the con artist Irving Rosenfeld; Bradley Cooper is magnificent in portraying the FBI agent Richie DiMaso and his troubled personality; and Amy Adams is absolutely adorable in the “double accent/double character” role she plays. Even Jeremy Renner, who had not previously collaborated with Russell, is perfect in portraying the sleazy, but likeable Mayor Carmine Polito. Only Jennifer Lawrence’s role, that of Irving Rosenfeld’s wife Rosalyn, didn’t really stick with me, since her character seems rather formulaic.

    In one instance, during the shooting of the movie, David O. Russell said to Christian Bale “Christian, I hate plots. I am all about characters, that’s it”. Which is a rather strange thing to say since some people, from what I have read on the internet, had problems with the characters themselves, meaning they couldn’t engage with them. And I must say – that is very true, sometimes it is hard to empathize with the characters (since all of them have some distinct unlikeable traits) and this may be a problem for some people because the movie is over two hours long. As for me, I haven’t had such problems, but I still disagree with Mr. Russell, since I am all about the style and the old school way in which this movie is told, rather than the characters. Although, there is one thing in the movie that left me disappointed, and that was the ending, which felt dull and underwhelming. I must say, in the end, I felt somewhat hustled.

    Rating: 8/10

    Read more reviews at

  • (Rating: 4 / 5) With projects like these, David O. Russell will soon become a sort of Chris Columbus, but more talented. Russell has transformed his last movies in products with very serious or interesting arguments, and then he applies the Hollywood formula, a great seppuku: with happy endings and “TV dramas”. He likes inflate his films, movies for “all age groups” but in adults format. “American Hustle” might have been like “American Gangster” in tone, or at least as “Ocean’s Eleven” in the scam… but not

    There is no doubt that the film is pretty good, but something is lost in expectations. Aesthetically moved to the 70, so we see a Christian Bale with “Steve Jobs” cutting, and Bradley Cooper with curls. And of course, the dress and the soundtrack, the latter a feature of the director for his films (eg “Silver Linings Playbook”, the song “Girl From The North Country” by Bob Dylan; Nashville Skyline version). The film promises from the beginning a much better balance than “The Wolf Of Wall Street”: Irving Rosenfeld and her lover Sydney Prosser (played by Chritian Bale and Amy Adams, respectively) are small-time swindlers who are dedicated to a fake modest business loans and finance. No excess, no too much money, but to keep things on reasonable scale, but that does not prevent its detection. The narrative is balanced by the music and by two OFF voices, Irving and Sydney that allow give their view about each other and about the living situation. They were discovered and forced to compromise with the FBI to assist in capturing more scammers. Irving, smart man, support the lowest possible but can not prevent his “friends” (which he tries to betray them) speak more and it is found that important political members are involved in dirty business. Meanwhile, Riche DiMaso (Cooper), the FBI agent, does not have many qualms about attempting to seduce Sydney, so ultimately the collaboration decision is just routine to approach this girl

    While the film is enjoyable, there are some drawbacks in the performances. Christian Bale fulfills its role very effectively, and the rest is very good too. However, while Bradley Cooper continues his charisma, lacks sufficient stature to at least appear as a figure greater than Bale, which is bad because it is assumed that Cooper is an FBI agent. Amy Adams is very good too, and she is soooooooooooo sexy, but not always her character is perfectly developed: Sometimes it is put in a situation where pulling the strings, although she does not always transmit that feeling

    But the film stumbles when David Russell begins to walk in the Hollywood way , being lenient with the artifice of TV drama, impossible to control the script that has (actually, he wrote in collaboration with another guy). First, the background of Bradley Cooper (as a man dominated by his family) is lost, never touched again and practically is filed, wasting the posibility to be related to the personality of the FBI agent. Second, the great Jennifer Lawrence appears and shines with her charm , this time as a decaying ex-wife (though not legally divorced) of Irving; but she is set to fight with Amy Adams in a rather unnecessary conflict and that only adds twists and twist in the script. Third: the relationship between Sydney and Riche is undecided. Then, the revelation of identity of one of the protagonists is futile because it does not change much. Plus, the role of Amy Adams is irregular in terms of implementation of ideas: eg does not take long to convince herself to become a swindler when Bale tells about his life. And the final scam (two million dollars) is quite contractual, a decision to end the film in mildly surprising manner and return to route the scammers in their abilities, but lacks proper weight, we were never warned of this plan except in the final minutes, so its very short to impress. If things are irregular with the script, the film ends with a happy ending where everyone are arranged and have their respective loves. Reasons why, “American Hustle” rate very well but no leads the expectations

  • Joe O'Loughlin

    “American Hustle” is a movie so nice, I saw it twice.

    Two bright, flawed schemers, played by Irving (Christian Bale) and Sydney (Amy Adams), “meet cute” at a tacky late-70’s indoor pool party on Long Island. Sydney is a driven, insecure seeker who wants to be anyone except herself. Irving is jealous and insecure, and a consummate con man, but later shows us a small spark of character that partially redeems him. They are libidinous, love-struck and larcenous. They share a natural talent for spotting people’s weaknesses and exploiting them. When they first meet they also share an adulation of Duke Ellington’s unapologetically brash, over-the-top jazz, which is a metaphor for the way they want the world to see them, like a couple of ostracized high school kids with a secret language.

    In a “Goodfellas”-style voiceover, Irving describes his hopeless attraction to Sydney: “Like me, she came from a place where her options were limited”. Sometimes Irving’s internal dialogue becomes external, when he chides himself in a mirror for overreaching in his first attempt to impress Sydney. This protagonist-narrator approach works well because not only does David O. Russell (“Silver Linings Playbook”, “Three Kings”) honor Scorsese’s highly original directing style, but also piles on his own mad skills. This includes opening the story with something dramatic that happens later, and then starting again from the beginning and leading us forward to that crisis-laden moment, and beyond. By that time, we are all strapped in and the train is hurtling forward at max speed toward who-knows-what.

    Irving’s embarrassing comb-over and unabashed fleshy pot belly seem to serve as symbols of the myopia Irving has about himself. He is stooped almost to hunchback. It’s said that Bale permanently injured his spine by going too “Method” in this role, remaining in that artificially bent-over position even when the cameras were not rolling.

    Irving is married, but not very. His wife, Rosalyn (Jennifer Lawrence), is a daffy joy as a dangerously bored suburban housewife. She is an undeniable force of nature, a beautiful human hurricane whose brain has no filter for her words and actions. In a great foreshadowing scene in a restaurant, she charms her dinner companions by pointing out how the appeal of her expensive nail polish stems from its slightly rotten odor, thrusting her hand under the mayor’s nose and urging him to sniff it, which he joyfully does. She spouts proto-“est” aphorisms like “The power of intention, Irving! The power of intention! … Thank you!”, and uses her aggressiveness to compensate for her tragic fragility. In probably the most heartbreaking scene in the movie, she tells her new (even more dangerous) boyfriend, “I don’t like change. … Sometimes I think I’d rather die than change”. But Irving really loves Rosalyn, or more accurately, he is addicted to her. Irving, the ultimate scammer himself, thinks of Rosalyn as “… the princess of passive aggressive karate. She was better than any con artist I ever met. I was HER mark.” No heroic Katniss here, “Hunger Games” fans.

    There is great tension among these three characters in a romantic triangle, which is a fine propulsive force that keeps interest strong about what will happen next. And then the stakes are raised higher when Richie, an overmatched FBI agent (Bradley Cooper), busts them and forces them to promote a government-sponsored scam to catch crooked elected officials (eventually six U.S. Congressman, one U.S. senator, and the mayor of a major U.S. city actually were caught taking bribes). At that point, it grows from a triangle to a quadrangle(?) among the four, and then Rosalyn, who by now Irving can no longer hope to control, jealously inserts herself into the elaborate con that has been cobbled together with unwanted complications by the vainglorious, idiotic Richie, and it looks like all hell is going to break loose.

    But it doesn’t, at least not yet. It just gets more complicated, until it has become like the Hindenburg in a lightning storm with Irving patching up leaking holes with duct tape. Eventually, in order to secure their own freedom, which they are very good at, Irving and Rosalyn put aside their relationship insecurities and con the FBI to save their own skins and to help the altruistic mayor. And they do it so expertly that they get away with it.

    In this story, the “bad guys” are smart; the “good guys” are dumb. Richie proves conclusively that you can’t fix stupid, especially when it’s combined with a hilarious narcissistic personality disorder. Richie is a world-class boob, and a schmuck to boot, who happens to be an FBI agent. This is based on a true story. I wonder how true … . He is only slightly less moronic than his boss, played by Louis CK. The “ice fishing story” that Richie’s boss begins telling Richie, but never quite finishes, is a running gag that creates tension, exposes character and makes you laugh at just the right intervals. Very clever. CK is really good, too. I liked him in “Blue Jasmine” last year (I’m seeing more comedians in good movies lately). And of course their boss, the attorney general, seems to have a soufflé’ for a brain. I think what makes them seem so funny is that they think they’re so much smarter than they actually are, like in a Coen brothers movie.

    Irving, Sydney, Rosalyn and Richie are the heart of the movie. Despite their nefarious natures, their marshmallow ethics, their Olympian rationalizations of their own behavior, you have to like them, law-keepers and perpetrators alike, because they truly think they deserve the American Dream and they have worked hard to achieve it. These people and their behavior and customs feel really authentic, which makes you care about them. They aren’t perfect – far from perfect – very flawed – like people we know.

    I like the way the pull of their personalities draws other people into their orbits. Some are benign and others are sad and tragic, like the surprisingly good Jeremy Renner (The Hurt Locker, The Avengers, The Bourne Legacy), who plays Carmine, the bighearted, hapless mayor of Camden. When Richie meets Carmine to draw him into the con, he tells him so convincingly, “The world is not black and white, like you say — it’s extremely grey.”, and the mayor is hooked. Later, when the mayor becomes Irving’s friend instead of his mark, significantly, Irving tells him, “I never had a friend like you before.” I mean after all, the mayor gave Irving a newfangled microwave oven, “the science oven” (you’ll see what I mean).

    I like the directorial alchemy of perfectly matched music tracks that weld euphoric recall from old songs with the events unfolding in the story. Despite the terrific music there are fine quiet moments, too, usually between only two people, that are perfectly paced, framed, scripted and edited so compellingly that you cannot look away.

    The atmosphere of this movie seems so true, with the thumping disco beat, strobe lights, sweat, crowds, clothes, hair, and more than anything, the abundance of Attitude. There is good authenticity and adherence to detail (e.g., what is it with FBI agent and cops and their gold Rolexes? I mean, it’s true, but how do they afford them?) It takes place back when women read Cosmo and apparently every bra had been burned. Americans rocked outrageous wine-colored polyester suits, thick patterned ties with double Windsor knots and long shirt collars, bell bottoms, buckle shoes, appalling comb-overs and Jheri-curl. I was around then, and now I feel so ashamed. It reminds me that, as tacky as it seems now, at least the 70’s had its own kind of glamor, and it feels now as if we lack that in our everyday lives.

    Again, quite an homage to Martin Scorsese. Example: Richie is at home with his mother (yes, he still lives with his Italian mother and sister). The cramped kitchen is bathed in chiaroscuro lighting, as Gordon Willis pioneered in “The Godfather”. Richie’s hair is bound in countless little blue plastic curlers. Medium shot on Richie, and the phone rings; the camera zooms in on his startled reaction; speed-pan left, to the phone on the wall, and zoom to close-up; Richie’s hand lurches into frame and snatches the phone off the receiver.

    And then there is the requisite operatically staged scene in the cozy Italian restaurant. The mayor, his family, his friends, and the city’s political hoi polio are celebrating their good fortune. We see the value of relationships, friendship, community, human connection. And then we see behind the scenes what helps to hold it all together (or did back then): the next scene is a meeting with mob boss Victor Tellegio (Robert De Niro, uncredited), in a terrific turn as a scary, powerful man who the FBI should never take for granted.

    Another Scorsese-like touch: the Bee Gees’ “How Can You Mend A Broken Heart?” transitions us between highly dramatic scenes and compresses time with a beautiful tracking shot from behind as the mayor and his wife ascend the steps to the stage and enter an auditorium to announce the bounty they have secured for the citizens of Camden, and we are happy for him and his family as they appear to climb onto the launch pad of their dreams. Another example: bold and beautiful camerawork when Richie is likewise convinced of his victory, and charges recklessly toward the camera until it appears to almost hit him in the nose, so much so that I jumped in my seat. I have never seen a shot like that.

    Irving leaves us with parting thoughts, again in voiceover, “You can fool yourself for just so long. Your next reincarnation, you better have your feet on the ground.”

  • Mhm, it looks like I’m the only one who didn’t like it :). In my opinion, “American Hustle” was truly a disappointing movie. There was so much potential to the story but it was just boring. It’s so slow, there’s no decent plot, the dialogue is dispassionate, Christian Bale looks ridiculous, the soundtrack is poor, so all in all it’s just plain boring. You kind of watch the film in the hope that it will become interesting. But half way through everything becomes predictable. All the hype surrounding this film is too much. Perhaps I was expecting too much. But this movie left me more disappointed than most bad movies I’ve seen. Bottom line is, don’t waste your time on this film, it is probably the most overrated movie in recent memory…

  • rving Rosenfield has always done what it takes to survive. When he was a kid, he would run around town and throw rock through windows in order to drum up customers for his father’s glass business, and when he grew up, he moved on to illegal art distribution. That’s where we meet Irving; selling forged or stolen art pieces and selling them. Then, at a party, he meets Sydney, and they fall in love from their first dance, and she becomes his means of survival. When he reveals the work that he does, Sydney becomes his accomplice in a banking scheme, and the couple pulls it off almost perfectly. The couple’s booming “business” has caught the eye of FBI agent Richie DiMaso, and this agent offers them a deal; if Irving and Sydney aid in the busts of four people, then the FBI will forget that the banking scam ever happened. With seemingly no other choice, Irving accepts the deal.
    Although Sydney is his true love, Irving also has a wife, technically. He doesn’t love her anymore, and there is no question why he feels this way. From the mouth of Irving’s young son, we learn that the wife always has her “special drink”, and that she has accidentally caught part of the kitchen on fire. Based on Irving’s reaction, this is not the first time that such an event has occurred. Rosalyn, Irving’s wife, still loves her husband, and she uses their son and her ability to testify against him as a way to keep the marriage out of ending in divorce. When it comes time for Irving to do his work for the FBI, he has to use Rosalyn, making her the x-factor that determines the success of his job. As time goes along, Rosalyn’s thought process tears the plans apart, and this already stressful job becomes even more so.
    For mayor Carmine Polito, it’s all about a community and family values. He holds the desk of the mayor of Camden, New Jersey, and it he has big plans. A man beloved by people of all different social and ethnic backgrounds, Carmine is a man of the people. After finally helping the passing of a law making gambling once again legal in the state of New Jersey, he moves his sights on to the rebuilding of Atlantic City. Lacking the necessary funds to perform such a task, he is looking for a financial aid, and that’s where Irving, Sydney, and the FBI come in. Using a fake rich person, a sheik, Irving, Sydney, and Richie are going to try to frame Carmine (and any other politicians that he’s involved with) for taking illegal money/bribes. From their first dinner meeting, both of the men and their wives quickly bond. With her newfound friendship with Carmine’s wife, Rosalyn has now become a piece in this delicate game of chess that is being played out.

    My Thoughts
    Released the year immediately following his other great success, Silver Linings Playbook, this film received just about the same amount of critical acclaim. Although this film is not quite as emotionally gripping as its predecessor, American Hustle is still a fantastic film. Director David O. Russell brings the same deep characters to this script, and the story is just as intriguing. Where Playbook incorporated the difficulties of mental illness, Hustle uses the complexity of relationships and alliances. Though the director has been quoted as saying he couldn’t care less about the plot, just as long as the characters are shown correctly, this is still a great script.
    Just like the depth that is seen in Pat and Tiffany from Playbook, the four major characters are shown with tremendous intricacy. Also, this film features some of the same actors. Bradley Cooper stars as the passionate Agent DiMaso, Jennifer Lawrence plays the crazed Rosalyn, and Robert De Niro appears in a very small, un-credited role as gangster Victor Tellegio. In addition to these actors, Christian Bale (Irving) and Amy Adams (Sydney) return to being directed by Russell after starring in the 2010 film The Fighter; which earned them both Oscar nominations. Then, after failing to be cast despite previous efforts to work with the director, Jeremy Renner finally got to work with him, playing Mayor Carmine Polito.
    As I have said previously, this film received quite a bit of critical recognition, including the Academy. American Hustle was nominated in an amazing 10 categories; however, more amazing is the fact that not one gold statuette went home with the film’s cast or crew. This marks the fifth time that a film has received 10+ nominations but went home empty-handed; the other films include the following: The Color Purple (1985), The Turning Point (1977), Gangs of New York (2002), and True Grit (2010).
    My major disparaging comment is in regards to the language. Though I can support language when it is necessary to show emotion or depth, I highly dislike it when curses are used for seemingly no good reason. This has become a somewhat popular trend in modern films, and it exists in this film. In addition to the language, there is also quite a bit of suggestive scenes. We technically don’t see anything too wild, but we are taken to the absolute threshold on a few occasions. I understand that love is a major piece of this film’s plot and characters, but a couple of the instances were not needed, in my opinion.

    Score: 8.5/10
    Comments: Pretty slow at times, the previously stated language overabundance, and the overly suggestive scenes take some keep points off of the score for my taste. However, this is great filmmaking in terms of characters and such.

    Did you like this review? Check out my blog at

  • A con man (Christian Bale) and his partner (Amy Adams) are forced into working for FBI agent (Bradley Cooper) to take down powerful and corrupted powerbrokers. Already nominated for seven Golden Globes and will more than likely be nominated for some Oscars too. What better way to start the year than a huge film like this one?


    From the word go you can understand just why this have been nominated and praised so highly. And all it is, is Irving Rosenfeld (Christian Bale) doing his hair. A lot of critics (and writers) criticize films that use voice-overs as it’s a cheap way of moving the story on. However some films need…
    To read the full review click here.

  • American Hustle 7.5/10- I will start this off by saying that I am a huge fan of David O’Russell, Bradley Cooper, Christian Bale, Amy Adams, and Jennifer Lawrence. It is an understatement to say that I hold David O’Russell’s directing and his screenwriting at the highest regard. American Hustle cons its way into making a near-masterpiece of film making.

    When I saw the previews for American Hustle, I read that American Hustle is loosely based on the 1978 ABSCAM scandal. I would explain what that is, but I do not want to ruin the movie for you. What I will say is, American Hustle gives a completely new view point on the FBI and how they do things. As said in the movie, the world is not black and white, it is gray. Now, none of the depiction of the ABSCAM scandal would be believable it was not for the great costume design. Bradley Cooper’s curly hair looked hilariously superb, but Christian Bales comb over looked fantastic. The costume design department obviously knew what they were doing when they made these risky moves that more than paid off.

    It is impossible for me to describe how great the screenplay was. The movie has a lot of ground to cover in a short two hours and five minutes. American Hustle moves at an electrifying pace that informs everyone on the background of all the people involved. The movie is a shoe-in to be at the very least nominated for an Oscar in the screenwriting department. Now, a great movie is nothing without great acting. The acting ensemble that American Hustle gathered from all of his previous movies and a few new members was perfect. A lot of credit goes to both David O’Russell and the casting department.

    When it comes to the acting, I do think everyone in the audience would agree that it was top-notch. Amy Adams, who plays Sydney Prosser, continues to deliver these amazing performances where she is sure to get a best actress in leading role nomination. Amy Adams plays the con-artist partner duo alongside Christian Bale. Christian Bale, who plays Irving Rosenfeld, amazes the audiences by his ability to commit to a role. Not many actors in Hollywood would be willing to give up a six-pack and gain forty pounds and have a comb-over for one movie role. This is what makes Christian Bale stand out. He can play any kind of character. He obviously did his homework for the role because he demonstrated his knowledge of the con game as the character that Bale plays is revered as one of the best con-artists of the 20th century. The Christian Bale-Amy Adams duo worked out well together and they showed good chemistry together.

    For full review and more,–american-hustle.html

  • This one was another highly anticipated movie, primarily due to its awesome cast. This is a 70’s style con movie based on real events .. So how does it pan out overall

    Over attention to details –
    There is something like too much of a good thing, this is what this movie suffers from .. the movie is stylish and pays attention to details .. but sometimes that attention is so much that scenes start to drag .. though such scenes are few but you will know when they come.

    Direction & Screenplay –
    The direction is not particularly bad .. but its just that I expected more from ‘David O. Russell’ after ‘Silver Linings Playbook’ and ‘The Fighter’; its just not as tight and crisp as it should have been specially with the veteran cast.

    Performances –
    This is one area on which I can write an essay alone. Everyone has acted brilliantly. The actresses all look pretty ( with Jennifer Lawrence somehow coming on top wink emoticon. But stand up right now for man of the match ‘Christian Bale’. He is an acting god, can’t say anything more about him.

    Plot –
    The plot is mixed with some of the real events that happened in USA. Though its an intricate one; the story writers come on top in the end providing a satisfying climax.

    Background score –
    Don’t usually rate this for Hollywood movies; but this one has a good soundtrack, so pay attention to it.

    Overall, the movie is good with some brilliant performances. But it could have been made better at the same time, with some more crispness to screenplay, this would have been a scorcher. This will be liked more by boys than girls.

    Rating : 3.25 / 5

  • “If I really wanted to fucking bother you, this is what I would do.”

    And he kept his word, because practically everything about this movie bothered me. Normally I write a comprehensive review regardless whether the film felt positive or negative to me.But with this movie I felt nothing and I didn’t feel the need to do that effort. Christian Bale looked fat (literally and that’s admirable). Cooper played a nerve wrecked, probably coke-snorting CIA agent who started to get on my nerves almost immediately. Amy Adams is still a delightful creature with a divine body. Almost the entire movie, she walks around with a decollete down to her belly. No chance that something would be revealed, since her upper body is almost as flat as a pancake. Jennifer Lawrence still has a pretty face. And that’s it. Renner had a terrible haircut. And De Niro you’ll see in a flash an disappears so quickly that you even begin to doubt whether he has starred in this movie. The only positive contribution was the fake Arab they had fetched. Extremely funny and cool-headed .For the rest it’s just an utter boring, chaotic and confusing story. Twice I threatened to fall asleep. A lot of fuss about nothing and to me a complete waste of bandwidth and time .

  • Casting players from his 2010 vehicle The Fighter and his 2012 flick Silver Linings Playbook, director David O. Russell fashions a mixed bag full of big time stars, a script that has shades of obviousness, and a 70’s setting that doesn’t quite feel that 70’s. It’s about two con artists who get caught and are forced to work with an FBI agent in hopes of taking down a likable Camden, New Jersey mayor. The two thieves/lovers are played by Christian Bale (in my opinion, the best actor in the business) and Amy Adams. Bradley Cooper (sporting a perm that screams early 80’s more than late 70’s) plays the agent and Jeremy Renner plays the venerable mayor (Carmine Polito).

    As a disappointing yet fairly well acted snore’s fest, American Hustle (the film I’m reviewing) is lightly based on true events (the opening title card says this). The first scene grabs you when you get a good look at Bale’s character’s wretched comb over. After that, the proceedings slide steadily downhill only to wrap things up in a feasible fashion. By then, it’s too late. You, as the audience member, walk out of the theater feeling cold, unfulfilled, and cheated. But that’s the point right. You got conned out of $10. Hopefully if you haven’t seen this thing yet, you’ll read further and save your hard earned money.

    But if you choose to watch American Hustle, you’ll notice that Russell is having a lot of fun with the camera. It’s not his biggest strength but he usually does a substantial job. For my money however, he excels at coaching his actors to do good work on screen by letting their emotions become volatile and haphazard. In “Hustle” he unfortunately seems overly confident to the point where he channels his inner Martin Scorsese and Paul Thomas Anderson (the virtuoso guys who brought you films like Goodfellas and Magnolia). As a result, his neutered technique is not quite as effective here. Along with somewhat imitating their camera movements, there are also a lot of random zooming shots he puts to each character’s face. Then you have the whole narration device which is used in every movie these days and that gets old real fast. Finally, you have Russell trying to insert a lot of songs into his movies (this one in particular). His way of doing this pales in comparison to a master like Scorsese. As you take in “Hustle,” you’ll find that these songs come in at the wrong times and don’t quite fit the scenes. And since this exercise takes place in the late 70’s (two months in 1978 I think), you get ditties from Elton John, Chicago, Todd Rundgren, and The Bee Gees. These are good tunes yes, but they have been played on the radio a million times. This renders their effect absent of any nostalgia or escapism.

    Let’s face it, if there is anything to take from “Hustle,” it’s about the showing off of a big name cast and their performances as opposed to telling a meaningful, interesting story (and adding the use of amateur-like swooping camerawork). You can tell that everyone involved is looking to score Oscar glory. And I’m not being sexist, but the men are much better acting wise than the women. Christian Bale as Irvin Rosenfeld, makes the most of his minutes on screen by far. His turn as a balding, monarchistic con man with a conscience (you’ll see later in the film), rings the truest and feels the most natural. Bradley Cooper is pretty solid too. He basically vibes off his screen time in Silver Linings Playbook by playing a manic, unstable, and kooky FBI agent (Richie DiMaso) who’s ultimately dumber than he seems (a tiny spoiler alert, sorry). Then there’s the cameos which are pretty darn good (Robert De Niro and Michael Pena are quietly effective as a mob boss and a phony sheik). But hey, I haven’t mentioned the female roles yet. Their screen time in these roles disappointed me because these are starlets that I really adore. They seem to be trying too hard and unlike their best turns as actresses, here you could tell that they’re you know, just acting. Amy Adams overdoes it as con woman Sydney Prosser. Her character motivation comes off as silly because she seems to be a bit wishy-washy on who she has a romantic interest in (if you view “Hustle,” you’ll know what I mean). As for Lawrence, she kinda lets me down more than anyone else. As brilliant a movie star as she’s been in the past, her work as Bale’s character’s wife, exhibits a pale imitation of herself. It’s like she’s trying to be Jennifer Lawrence even though she’s already in fact, Jennifer Lawrence.

    Overall, I can’t for the life of me, figure out why this thing is a so-called “critical darling.” It’s not necessarily a bad film but it lacks elements of Russell’s work that highlight his strongest traits as a freewheeling director. With the exception of letting his actors roam free and escalate their scenes (a trait that I like), “Hustle” doesn’t possess the confident wit and thought provoking smear of his 2004 gem I Heart Huckabees. And it doesn’t equal the invigorating deepness and daunting soul of his big hit from last year being Silver Linings Playbook. So what are we left with: a sort of dull, empty, uninteresting yet moderately well acted film that is almost saved by a nifty little ending. “Hustle” drifts and drags along all the while boring the audience for 80% of its running time. It’s compelling to a fault (if you factor in Bale’s character’s predicament) but it’s plot driven in a way that doesn’t cater to what the filmmakers who worked on it, know best. David O. Russell, who’s too gifted a director and doesn’t know the meaning of being lazy, is incapable of ever actually shooting an awful movie. However, if you consider his American Hustle to be brilliant and/or worthy of the Academy’s highest accolades, ultimately you’ve probably been “hustled” yourself.

    Check out other reviews on my blog:

  • “Did you ever have to find a way to survive and you knew your choices were bad, but you had to survive?”

    Have you ever seen a movie that seemed so genuinely good, but was in some way a knockoff of somebody else’s work? The guy who made it was so sincere in his methods that the film was original to everybody who saw it. People believe what they want to believe, so who’s the master? The creator or the imitator?

    In early December the New York Film Critics Circle stunned audiences when they awarded director/co-writer David O. Russell’s American Hustle Best Picture and Best Screenplay upturning 12 Years a Slave and the surprise festival favorite Her. Despite the countless positive reviews pouring in (a whopping 95% on Rotten Tomatoes), some critics (myself included) are finding too many parallels with the mob flick Goodfellas with a Boogie Nights vibe. But everyone in Hollywood knows copying is the highest form of flattery especially when it’s done well and done right—I’m talking to you, Quentin Tarantino. Unfortunately, the American Hustle grand scam of corruption, love, loyalty and elaborate comb-overs doesn’t take us to any new levels. It doesn’t leave me wanting more…it leaves me wanting something period.

    Hustle is loosely based on the late 1970s/80s Abscam, a sting operation orchestrated by the FBI that led to the conviction of some congressmen and a senator. The film admits up front with a title card that only “some of this actually happened,” and it’s apparent that O. Russell wasn’t interested in relaying the facts. O. Russell heavily maintains his loyalty toward his characters, and how they all con one another to get what they want, because (as he continuously makes it clear) we all hustle to survive. It’s the American way. But for a plot so heavily revolved around Abscam, the greatest con of the film, O. Russell offers little clarity on following what the hell is going on?

    The heart and soul of the movie is carried by Irving Rosenfeld (Christian Bale) and his con-partner mistress Sydney Prosser (Amy Adams). Rosenfeld is a sleazeball from the Bronx who, as he puts it, had to work from the feet up to obtain a comfortable lifestyle. Likewise, Prosser too hustled from bottom to top to escape her ho-hum identity. Together they get rich by duping Jersey entrepreneurs with their outrageously calculated business deals. The two become entangled with FBI maverick Richie DiMaso (Bradley Cooper) who blackmails them into helping him to entrap local corrupt politicians including New Jersey mayor (Jeremy Renner).

    Director David O. Russell has had a Renaissance of sorts in the past few years with films The Fighter, Silver Linings Playbook and now American Hustle to add to the trilogy of his Hollywood hits. Russell’s previous work includes obscurities Spanking the Monkey (1994), Three Kings (1999) and I Heart Huckabees (2004); movies that ring a bell to memory, but nobody really talks about them. After taking a six year break from Hollywood, O. Russell helped raise his son with Bipolar Disorder while going through a divorce. The aftermath? Three films seemingly back-to-back all receiving critical acclaim and multiple nods from the Academy.

    O. Russell brands some of the most remarkable characters in his films, but it’s easy to get distracted with American Hustle’s characters by their polyester suits, their carefully-constructed hairstyles and obscenely low cut tops. David Thomson from New Republic highlights that even subtle addition of Robert de Niro in a scene felt out of place, “There is also a harshly underlit actor who resembles Robert De Niro, but a De Niro who has uncommon humor and seems to realize that the whole film is a parody of some of his classics. Does he also notice how, from time to time, Bale drops into a cool and casual impersonation of the younger De Niro?” Unfortunately, behind the grandiose exterior of the American Hustle characters, the interior of the film (and the loosely bound plot) is hollow.

    There’s also a lot of filler scenes in that seem to float in and out serving no structural purpose to enhance the plot, or make it more understandable. Richie’s boss (Louis CK) delivers some of the most unnecessary scenes in the film that don’t add any meat to the core except to somewhat hold Richie back from accomplishing his grand scheme. When Richie doesn’t get what he wants, he slams a retro telephone across CK’s head, which would seemingly lead to repercussions, but then nothing really happens. Rosalyn (Jennifer Lawrence) plays Irving’s inept, loose-lipped wife who also wastes some time on screen peddling toward nothing—she blabs to the wrong man about her husband’s crooked involvement with the FBI, but right when you think real trouble is brewing for Irving, the consequences are absent from the plot. A scene that demonstrates the futility of the film is JLaw’s character super-cleaning while jamming out to “Live and Let Die.” Like much of the movie it’s an energetic and sincere glimpse at the character, but ultimately serves no purpose.

    Despite my countless gripes regarding the film, Hustle offers some spectacular performances, particularly by Amy Adams, Christian Bale and Bradley Cooper. As much screen time in the trailer and praise from critics Jennifer Lawrence has received (she’s already won best actress by the New York Film Critics circle beating out the tour de force Lupita Nyong’o in 12 Years a Slave), I can’t seem to grasp the hype. Although Lawrence may only have about 15 minutes of screen time throughout the film, she still remains as captivating and hilarious as ever. But with that being said, this doesn’t come close to touching her performances in Silver Linings or Winter’s Bone.

    I wanted to love American Hustle, and while I fall in the minority with the other displeased critics, there’s no denying that there was a lack of genuine heart that O. Russell’s previous two films possessed. There were no fireworks of emotions that the trailer created, and while it was a fun ride to be on, all it left me with was disappointing conclusions.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *