American Hustle

Director: David O. Russell

Starring: Christian Bale, Bradley Cooper, Amy Adams, Jeremy Renner, Jennifer Lawrence, Louis C.K., Michael Pena

Rated: R (pervasive language, some sexual content and brief violence)

A con man, Irving Rosenfeld, along with his seductive partner Sydney Prosser, is forced to work for a wild FBI agent, Richie DiMaso, who pushes them into a world of Jersey powerbrokers and mafia.

 

American Hustle

By Cole Schneider

David O. Russell (The Fighter, Silver Linings Playbook) has always relied more on characters, setting, and moments than on narrative plot. The plot seems to exist exclusively for the purpose of exploring those other elements, and in his new film American Hustle he takes these old habits and ratchets them even tighter. Moviegoers will be forced to deal with often unconventional, sometimes downright poor narrative storytelling. In the process, however, they will come to know and love an array of characters in 1970s New York and will find moments of cinematic joy that are likely to stay with them for the rest of their life.

A tremendous cast is led by Christian Bale, Amy Adams, and Bradley Cooper, yet everyone is upstaged by Jennifer Lawrence who gets the most fun material in a smaller role. The cast is buoyed by a script and a camera that are always on their side. Simply, Russell is as actor-friendly a director as there is in Hollywood today. This, along with the style and setting bring instant comparisons to Goodfellas and Boogie Nights. American Hustle comes up short on those two heavyweight films, but alas it is something different entirely. It somehow combines the audacious camera bravado of Martin Scorcese with the patience and restraint of Paul Thomas Anderson.

The result is riotously funny. Whether it’s a joke pulled into the foreground–watch out for the science oven–or whether it’s a joke with clever overtones throughout the whole film–the politician is the most morally upright character–the comedy is uncompromising. American Hustle is pure energy, infectious enthusiasm, and technically brilliant filmmaking.

Rating: 4.5 out of 5 stars.

 

American Hustle

By Matt Greene

“American Hustle” is all about deception. Every character is hiding something from every other character, manipulating their relationships to get what they want. On top of this, there seems to be trickery of the film itself on the audience. Is this a crime/heist film? Yes…but only just. Above the hustle and bustle of the plot is a wonderful array of bumbling characters and neurotic screwball-esque dialogue that is sorely missing in our modern day Cineplex’s. In the end, we get a crime-comedy-drama that is full of laughs…intense, unsettling laughs.

Nostalgia for the 1970s is extremely thick here, not just in the costuming and set pieces, but in the filmmaking itself.  Yes, the style and music are perfect in putting us within the era, but even the camera work, editing, and jazzy directing scream of “Mean Streets” era-Scorsese. Russell struggles at times with some of the potential convolutedness of the lies, but this is minor. Lucky for us, Russell can pair this madcap style with some great touches of reality, grounding us back in the mundane as we are facing the insane.

However, Russell is barely interested in the plot or even the real life Abscam scandal. He is interested in quick and brilliantly repetitive dialogue. He is interested in tone and style. He is interested in giving his actors surprising and authentic characters, and then letting them play…and play they do. Everyone brings their A-game, especially Cooper, Bale and Lawrence who are truly outstanding, hilarious, and convincing. This is must-see awards season viewing…but it will also just be an entertaining and engaging night at the movies.

Rating: 4.5 out of 5 stars

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