Reuniting the cast of his two previous productions – ‘The Fighter’ and ‘Silver Linings Playbook’ – director David O. Russell has managed to blend some of Hollywood’s biggest heavyweights into an almost perfect acting gel. It is testament to the acclaimed filmmakers creative decisions that such a blend is able to occur, with obvious accountability given to the level of professionalism that his principle cast deliver. It can not be by sole coincidence that some of the most talented individuals within the industry have chosen to once again work with the writer/director. With the confidence taken from their past experiences, and the reliability found with regards the standards of his finished pictures, both parties compliment each fully within this film. Played out as a long con throughout – with the audience serving as those who are fooled, ’American Hustle’ is an intriguingly well scripted, darkly comedic account of political – and personal – ambition, set against the backdrop of a pre 1980’s America.
With an opening title card stating ‘Some of this actually happened’ , audience members may possibly believe the film to be an account of real life. However, to create something more comedic – and through this entertaining to watch – some of the facts have been altered and exaggerated so as to create a depiction thats more typical ‘Hollywood’. These characters existed, but not necessarily in the way that they are depicted on screen.
1978, con artists Irving Rosenfeld (Christian Bale) and Sydney Prosser (Amy Adams) have managed to perfect their crime. Playing aristocracy into there plans in such a way to enhance Irving’s crimes, Sydney brings their criminal enterprise to the next level. However, when they are caught mid-con by FBI agent Richard DiMaso (Bradley Cooper), the pair are given only one option to resist jail time. Forced to line up four additional arrests, the two con artists begin an illustrious scam that involves key players throughout the New York hierarchy. Under a suggestion by one of Irving’s friends – posing as an Arab Sheikh – the three begin to do business with popular Mayor, Carmine Polito (Jeremy Renner). Seeing a way in which to get the four additional arrests, the trio trick the Mayor into entrapping many powerful – yet corrupt – Senators and Congressman. However, with the con ever-growing in size, the plan is heard is struck upon by powerful mobster Victor Tellegrio (a character portrayed by an amazing cameo appearance), who demands a larger sum of money and raises the stakes of those involved within its inner-workings. Overly ambitious, DiMaso decides to risk heavily for his own advancement within the force. As such Rosenfeld decides to close down the con before the stakes are met and those he holds dear are lost – including estranged wife Rosalyn (Jennifer Lawrence).
Much like his previous two films, O.Russell manages to deliver an exciting and amazingly acted screenplay that never takes itself too seriously. With strong leads players carrying the movies plot, the supporting cast could possibly have felt their presence would come under severe scrutiny or glanced over entirely in regards to the larger picture. However, this is in no way the case with perhaps the strongest performance found in the youngest member of its named principle cast. Jennifer Lawrence once again shows the immense acclaim, that has led to her fast becoming one of the most known and exciting actresses working today. Delivering a great character portrayal, easily making it her own, it is no wonder to why the director has decided once again to use the 23 year old in one of his productions. Easily destined to reach loftier heights within her career, Lawrence sets – once again – the foundations upon which to rise.
Christian Bale showcases his immense talent in altering his bodies proportions so as to get the character shape right. Putting on weight, gaining a belly and a horrible comb over, his transformation into the role allows for more engrossment to the characters ploy and plot-line. Grotesque in appearance and flawed in depiction, his Irving is an interesting blend of human nature and twisted ambition – carrying the films main plot points through the productions duration with an unease that radiates around his actions.
For every role that involves lighthearted attitudes or blockbuster size sequences, there is always a calling for something that seems more serious – an award winner, acclaim gainer. ‘American Hustle’ could be seen as such a film for Amy Adams. After the immense box office success that was ‘Man of Steel’ – where the actress played second lead Lois Lane – it is nice to see the established Hollywood actress, and one time Disney princess, acting again. Complicated in her contrasting relationships to the other key members, her portrayal is perhaps the closest to what accounts for real life. Sympathetic in her characters willingness to only be happy, her role could be seen as the conscience of the films slightly muddied context. Played to her characters strengths, and flaws – and much like the other cast members within this film – her portrayal is another strong element to why the film works well.
With an easier option being the ‘R’ rated comedies in which he made his name, it is outstanding to once again see Bradley Cooper trying to establish himself with more serious roles. Like his “Silver Linings Playbook” character, the role he portrays within this film is flawed throughout – but still easily enthralling to watch. A character study at its core, the last major player within the film is that of Polito. Starting his first production with the acclaimed O.Russell, Jeremy Renner seems a perfect fit into the world already established on screen. No doubt the beginning of a great working partnership, ‘American Hustle’ could perhaps begin the dominance of the industry that is long overdue for the talented ‘Avenger’. Put into a cast this strong, the roles could perhaps have become lost within the other portrayals. Luckily they are not. With expertly directed scenes and a cracking storyline, the film manages to give all participants a moment in which to shine. It with this in mind that the production of ‘American Hustle’ has resulted in such a strong finished picture.
‘American Hustle’ should also be noted on its excellent editing and soundtrack. Moving the story at a brisk pace, regardless of the slower moments that are sometimes found within its middle segment, the film is cut in such a way that allows the finished movie to appear more streamlined – with much of the films bulking out trim back to the basics needed to tell the plot only. The soundtrack completely enhances this film, with its use excellent in presenting the era with which it is set. With such classic songs as ‘Live and Let Die’ and ‘Delilah’ featured heavily within the films plot, the visual and sound blend together to create something that works on multiple layers.
‘American Hustle’ is a complete contender for the prestigious awards handed out within the industry. Brilliantly acted out by its heavyweight cast members, and directed to such a standard by an already acclaimed filmmaker, this film is easily one of the best feature length productions to have been released within the last decade. A stand out film with stand out elements, ‘American Hustle’ – or as it was originally known ‘American Bullshit’- just works.
Plot – 4
Acting – 5
Direction – 4
Special Effects – 3
Retrospect – 4
Overall – B