posted on January 03, 2014 09:46
Few films this year have had the critical mass in such an uproar, whether it be good or bad uproar. I try to keep my expectations in check, especially when it comes to movies that have almost unanimous praise. Yet, American Hustle’s praise was hard to ignore, as is its impressive cast. Most of the cast is reuniting with writer/director David O. Russell: Bradley Cooper and Jennifer Lawrence from Silver Linings Playbook; Amy Adams and Christian Bale from The Fighter. All four of whom received Academy Award nominations for their roles. There is just too much good to avoid having high expectations.
American Hustle opens with an unusual text on screen “Some of this actually happened.” Following this, we are introduced to Irving Rosenfeld (Bale) as he prepares his hair. This is quite the process as he has little on top. This intricate process includes quite the comb over. Next up, we meet Sydney (Adams) and Richie DiMaso (Cooper). The three of them head into a hotel room to complete a sting on Camden, New Jersey Mayor Carmine Polito (Renner). This goes awry, and we are then taken back to the beginning.
Irving is a con-artist. While at a party, he meets Sydney. They strike up a relationship. The only problem is Rosalyn (Lawrence), Irving’s wife and her son Danny (Danny/Sonny Corbo), who has been adopted and loved by Irving. So, Sydney and Irving develop quite the money scam involving Sydney putting on a fake British accent and calling herself Edith. They get a non-refundable deposit of $5,000 from people looking for a loan. Edith “has banking” connections in England. Of course, there is no money. Richie DiMaso sets up the duo and Edith is taken down. To save her, and himself, Irving agrees to help DiMaso do four busts.
At the onset, Irving is set to take down some low level people. But, Carl Elway (Shea Whigham), a document forger being set up to fall, says he they should go after Carmine Polito (Jeremy Renner). Carmine is trying to rebuild Atlantic City. He just got gambling legalized, but there are no funds to build the casinos. This offer entices DiMaso, and since he is running the operation, he decides to go bigger. This is the theme of the rest of the film. At every turn, a bigger fish arrives in their proverbial lap. Irving tries to rein it in, but DiMaso, spurred on by Sydney/Edith, cannot help himself. He is trying to make a name for himself in the FBI. As the staked get higher, Irving tries to find an out for everyone he cares about, but it gets harder and harder as his own wife gets mixed up in the situation and the mob.
American Hustle is the best acted movie of the year. All the actors bring their A-Game and the characters really come to life. The characters, especially DiMaso, remind me of the group of misfits from Burn After Reading. All of them believe they are more important than they are, and they are in way over their heads. Christian Bale knocks it out of the park. Bradley Cooper, who I personally think sucks, is amazing. Amy Adams is in top form as always. Jennifer Lawrence steals every scene she is in. Jeremy Renner puts in another solid performance. His resume is getting stronger with each passing year. There are a few cameos that I will leave to your surprise and enjoyment. David O. Russell’s direction is solid as one would expect.
The real fault of American Hustle is the story. It is loosely based on the FBI ABSCAM operation in the late seventies. There is just something about the story that doesn’t do it for me. David O. Russell and Eric Singer have good lines of dialog, just the story lacks a little something. I left the theater blown away by the acting, but I just did not care for the story. Despite this pitfall, American Hustle is still one of the best movies I have seen all year. I highly recommend going to see this, especially for the acting. It will continue to garner award nominations throughout the rest of the season. Don’t be the one that did not see this.