Review: American Hustle
Loosely based on an FBI sting operation of the late 1970s, American Hustle follows conman Irving Rosenfeld and his sexy accomplice as they try and keep their money and their heads while being forced to work with an opportunistic Federal agent. Along the way, however, crises mount, as Rosenfeld becomes close with one of the targets, and his disillusioned wife threatens to disrupt the process.
Director David O. Russell reunites with some familiar actors. Christian Bale (The Fighter) is Rosenfeld, while Amy Adams (The Fighter) is his sultry partner in crime. Bradley Cooper (Silver Linings Playbooks) is the FBI man Richie DiMaso, and his SLP costar Jennifer Lawrence is a whirlwind as Rosenfeld’s wife Rosalyn. Jeremy Renner is a loveable mayor, and Louis C.K. shows up as Richie’s hard-luck boss.
Not unlike the masterful Coen brothers, who also this weekend release a much-anticipated and well-received film, David O. Russell seems to embrace finding stories in unlikely places, and then telling them as only he can do.
American Hustle is loosely based on a true story of an extensive and controversial FBI Sting in the late 70s, but as a disclaimer reads at the start of the movie, this is a work of fiction…and some of it actually happened. So it’s with plenty of style, sexiness, and outrageousness that Russell relays this tale of deception, devotion, and survival, complete with bad comb-overs, revealing dresses, perms, and hubris.
It’s the rotund belly, hairy chest, and scraggily-haired head of Irving Rosenfeld that we meet first, setting an absurdist yet almost endearing tone for the film. He deceives, yes, and in another room in this hotel he’s set up a hidden camera to catch some political crooks, but there in this first, intimate, defenseless moment, there is something likeable about this conman.
Bale disappears into his character, like he does so many others, and he leads an incredibly impressive cast that is so much fun to watch. Amy Adams is spellbinding, and Bradley Cooper plays an agent who seems to always be on a five-hour energy drink, slowly descending into madness as his ambitious reach exceeds his grasp. Then there is Jennifer Lawrence, a whirling dervish of a young mother and wife to Rosenfeld, so sure in her mania and so mesmerizing in every word and movement.
So it’s less the story, and entirely the way it’s told with this oddly compelling cast of characters that propels the fast-paced romp that is American Hustle. It’s not without meaning, though. Rosenfeld, Prosser (Adams), and DiMaso occasionally narrate, sharing their past, present, and future ideals, offering what it takes to thrive in a world of greed, corruption, and power.
That’s the ‘America’ in the title; one where anything can be bought and in order to make it to the top you have to go through some clandestine avenues. Rosenfeld encounters more than once a crisis of confidence though as he questions the operation he’s forced into after meeting a target that is in fact a genuinely good family man trying to do right by his people.
Darkly comical and even hysterical at times, Russell’s expert direction, apt soundtrack, and the powerhouse performances he gets make this certainly the coolest movie of the year, if not the most fun.
Should You See It?
Among many other greats this time of year, yes, this is worth watching.