Alright, so excuse the corny title, but David O. Russell is at the top of his game. While this film in some ways is a love letter to Scorsese’s gangster films like “Casino” and “Goodfellas”, Russell takes time to mold his characters. Loosely based on the ABSCAM scandal of the 1970s, this film takes its’ place in the years top list.
Irving Rosenfeld (Christian Bale) is an intelligent con man with a bad taupe, a weak heart, and an even bigger weakness for complex women. He meets Sydney Posser (Amy Adams), a girl who shares his love of Duke Ellington and dreams of making a name for herself. The two are a match made in con artist heaven. The only problem is that Irving is married to Rosalyn (Jennifer Lawrence), who by all means is an intelligent housewife benefiting from Irving’s cons and chained to him through his love her son.
After running a loan scheme with Sydney for a long time, things for Irving goes south. They take a check from a driven federal agent, Richie DiMaso (Bradley Cooper), and are thus forced to work for him. DiMaso’s aim is to bring down politicians who take bribes and make a name for himself. This includes Mayor Carmine Polito (Jeremy Renner), who through loose moral decisions, ultimately has a big heart for bringing jobs to his people and renovating Atlantic city. As the story moves on Irving and Sydney are dragged further into DiMaso’s web, along with the suckered politicians and the mob.
What makes this film great is how Russell takes control of the storytelling. Russell and co-writer Eric Singer slowly reveal character, plot points, and turns through unreliable narrators. His use of the camera and match-cuts propel the story forward and highlight brilliant moments in the film.
Having already directed Adams and Cooper to Oscar nominations, and Bale and Lawrence to Oscar wins, Russell may have done it again. Bale may be one of the best of actors in Hollywood right now, and embodies the role of the straight-shooting con man with a likable appeal. Cooper channels the insecure DiMaso’s life of living with his mother into a volatile yet vulnerable agent. Although Adams holds down her role in the film, it feels all to familiar to her stable of past roles. Lawrence channels a younger Ginger McKenna (from Casino) in a humorous and memorable character.
“American Hustle” is entertaining in its mystery and crime drama storytelling. Where it is surprisingly successful is in its comedic layers. Running gags throughout the film, and comedic timing by the actors give the film a nice touch in an intense story. It’s definitely a must see.