American Hustle – Review

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Christian Bale;Amy Adams

Photo Courtesy Columbia Pictures

Is this the most hyped movie of the year?  Seriously, I feel I haven’t been able to talk or think about movies in 2013 without American Hustle entering into it all.  Luckily, it’s worth the hype.

Somewhat based on the true story and set in 1978, Christian Bale stars as Irving Rosenfeld – a semi-successful businessman with a chain of drycleaning stores who prefers to be a con man (it’s much more exciting than worrying about red wine stains on a white dress).  He’s pretty good at what he does, but a new level of success is achieved when he meets Sydney Prosser (Amy Adams) – a former stripper who wants to find a new way to make some cash.  The two instantly fall in love and form a perfect grifting pair, but they might have gotten in over their heads with this latest scam.

When Irving and Sydney are busted by the FBI, agent Richie DiMaso (Bradley Cooper) gives them an offer they can’t refuse.  If the duo helps rope in 4 other criminals, they will go free, but Richie has his eyes on some big prizes, which leads to a scheme involving politicians, bribes, the mob and an FBI hungry for results that will put them on the front pages of every newspaper in the country.

Of course, Irving realizes it is all a big mistake that puts him and Sydney in a dangerous situation they don’t want to face, especially as Richie starts to lose control.

Who will get hustled, and who will walk away free?

Between The Fighter, Silver Linings Playbook and American Hustle, writer/director David O. Russell has propelled himself into the elite stratosphere of directors who get mentioned with the genius title.  He’s on that list of directors like Spielberg, Eastwood, and Scorsese who make you note the release date of their next movie on your calendar, so you can be there on opening night, so I hope you already bought your ticket to this one before it sells out.

American Hustle has it all with great acting, great writing, a great set of twists and turns (no, that is not a reference to Jennifer Lawrence), and great ambiance.

Russell, with co-writer Eric Signer, give American Hustle a great plot with all sorts of levels to it from the look at the basic scam, the personal relationships that develop among the various players, the double crosses, the history of each character, the characters’ motivations and more.  You get to enjoy the movie from so many aspects that you almost can’t believe all of it is in just one movie.

Then, someone please give Bale an Oscar nomination.  We know how good he is, but American Hustle is a great reminder.  He takes a very laughable, easily mocked character and gives him the persona, confidence and charisma you never would expect.  In many ways, Bale makes Irving into a tragic figure who doesn’t know how to achieve the normally and socially acceptable success in this world, and gives us a chance to watch how this skewed version of his American Dream could destroy him.  We shouldn’t feel this sympathy for a con man, but you kind of do.

Plus, you get Jennifer Lawrence’s tour de force turn as the sassy, brassy screwed up wife who likes to party and makes you wonder what con she is running, while Cooper shocks you with the FBI agent starting to run out of control and desperate for some excitement and sexiness in his life, no matter the cost.

Most of all, I love how Russell takes what should be a very comical look and feel of the 1970’s, complete with male perms, crazy clothes and very large cars, and makes it all feel believable (or makes it into a journey down memory lane for those who lived it).  These actors and director don’t get buried by it.  They make it come to life.

American Hustle reminds me of a great Scorsese movie.

4waffles_sml4 Waffles (Out of 4)

America Hustle is rated R for pervasive language, some sexual content and brief violence.

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