Director: David O Russell
Starring: Christian Bale, Amy Adams, Bradley Cooper, Jennifer Lawrence, Jeremy Renner
With a total of ten Oscar nominations, in just about every category going, and a cast boasting some of the biggest and best names in Hollywood, I was expecting something special from ‘American Hustle’. Sure, it didn’t actually win anything at The Oscars 2014, but it was in very good company that year. I just can’t believe it had took me so long to finally get around to watching this film. From what I knew already, I was expecting a rather dark crime-thriller, full of backstabbing, underground meetings and a bit of danger to boot. What I got, was a much more light-hearted film, with any threat of danger quickly banished from the screen and replaced by clever humour and irony. All the fun of ‘The Wolf Of Wall Street’ but this time the mafia is involved.
The film opens with the pledge that “some of this actually happened”, so we know we’re in for some embellishment of the truth here; just how we like it. The balding, overweight Irving Rosenfeld (Christian Bale) is a natural con-man, but he meets his match in Sydney Prosser AKA Edith Greensley (Amy Adams), and the two of them begin a seedy business and pleasure relationship of fraudulent affairs. Enter Richie DiMaso (Bradley Cooper), an ambitious FBI agent who stings the pair and forces them into earning their freedom. Their target, the Mayor Carmine Polito (Jeremy Renner), is embroiled in criminal dealings that run much deeper than anticipated and the FBI agent now finds himself on the verge of nabbing not just corrupt congressman but the top dogs of the Jersey mafia. It’s a dog-eat-dog world on the streets of Jersey however, as the alliance quickly learns, and the biggest risk to the operation is Irving’s lonely wife Rosalyn (Jennifer Lawrence), who can’t wait to spill the beans to anyone who’ll listen.
Heading the A-list cast is Christian Bale, who undergoes a shocking transformation AGAIN. His rotund belly alone is hilarious enough, but his portrayal of the shrewd, enigmatic, lothario Irving Rosenfeld is both entertaining and accomplished – another star performance from an exceptional actor. I have never been a huge fan of the leading lady Amy Adams; I was always of the opinion that she was just a run of the mill, half-decent actress. I was wrong. She explodes here, channeling smart and sexy, with a ruthless edge and a firm control on the men around her. Bradley Cooper is a man on the up and up, gradually proving that he is a top Hollywood actor. His performance in ‘American Sniper’ is further evidence to this, but in ‘American Hustle’ the wheels are very much in motion. One minute he is bouncing around, a power-mad maniac on the brink of greatness, the next a fool who has lost it all. And he is utterly convincing in both instances. If it were ever in doubt (it wasn’t by the way), Jennifer Lawrence proves she is a woman at the top of her game by making the most of her relatively short amount of time in the thick of the action here. She is a woman possessed; stealing the limelight as the erratic, deranged and very funny Rosalyn.
Set in the 1970s, ‘American Hustle’ puts to good use a fantastic soundtrack – with an eclectic mix ranging from ‘Delilah’ to ‘Live And Let Die’ – to frame the retro feel of the film. Even the filming style had a vintage touch to it, making the whole experience satisfyingly genuine. With so many twists and turns, a change of heart and a change of plan every other minute and a merry-go-round of interchanging lovers, it was hard to keep up at times, but a very thrilling ride nonetheless. The comical edge was a fantastic addition to a film which could have very easily taken us on a dark and brutal path, instead opting for the more cleverly amusing approach. Not once did director David O Russell let his foot off the pedal though, and the narrative maintained a sense of tension right the way through, helped on its way by an impeccable cast on TOP form.