Loosely based on the true 70’s event, American Hustle tells the tale of legendary con man, Irving Rosenfeld, who along with his seductive partner Sydney Prosser become embroiled in the dark world of Jersey powerbrokers, bent officials and the mafia when they are forced to work for an out of control FBI agent, Richie DiMaso.
The first thing that will hit you about David O. Russell’s (he of Silver Linings Playbook, Three Kings & The Fighter) stylish piece of 70’s nostalgia is that it opens in a more contemplative mode than one would expect from a typical 70s crime comedy caper – this is the Scorsese movie that Mr Scorsese never made, and one that’s been burst open at the seams, allowing us to peer into the very souls of its main characters. As a result it makes for compelling, hilarious and at times uncomfortably honest viewing, crafting a story that’s always told with an amused eye for the ironic, damaged and heart-felt. This makes for some hilarious but poignant scenes, producing some emotionally weighted characters you can’t help but invest in.
And this is the main pull at the centre of American Hustle, because it’s not the story but the characters which will have you wanting to jump into this slice of the 70s again in repeated viewings – these are beautifully crafted characters depicted with a great deal of heart and integrity: Amy Adams’ American English-accented deceptress, Sydney, drips with womanly want and fragility whilst Brandon Cooper’s deeply selfish FBI bastard, Richie DiMaso, literally drips full of amusing masculine want, sweat and frustration. Jeremy Renner fills the screen with integrity and honesty as the likable Camden mayor, Carmine Polito, a politician in the wrong place at the wrong time. But the two standouts here are Christian Bale – delivering a utterly standout performance and proving why he’s one of the best method actors of our generation. Complete with a bulging belly, aviators and awesome comb-over, he perfectly embodies Irving, the honourable shmuck with a talent for doing very dishonourable deeds. The second is the brilliant Jennifer Lawrence, producing the perfect view of female control and instability as his vapid-but-cunning wife, Rosalyn. And this is what sets American Hustle apart, these 5 characters are so brilliantly realised and encompass the genuinely interesting and at the same time opposing aspects of the human condition that you can help but be knocked out by their performances. On this subject, we also can’t help but mention the excellent Louie C.K, delivering a brilliantly understated comedic performance as DiMaso’s superior and an utterly menacing cameo by Robert DeNiro.
Story-wise is where this film falters slightly, it’s a compelling stylish tale, lavishly filmed with interesting turns, intense moments, excellent 70’s nostalgia, brilliantly funny scenes and good story development. But it is also one which ends with slightly less impact than you would have liked leaving you slightly less satisfied by end than you would have wanted. Perhaps finding a different aspect of closure in the story here would have remedied this, but either way American Hustle still makes for utterly impressive, stylish, funny and brilliant viewing which will leave you unexpectedly wishing for those sweat-covered, booze and drug filled days of studio 54.