MOVIE REVIEW: AMERICAN HUSTLE (2013)

Running time: 2 hours, 18 minutes
Cast: Christian Bale, Amy Adams, Bradley Cooper, Jennifer Lawrence, Jeremy Renner
Director: David O. Russell

It’s easy to understand why American Hustle has received so much praise and Oscar buzz: The main cast shares great chemistry and they deliver strong individual performances. The whole movie is a mix of drama, comedy, madness, and horrific hair don’ts, and it’s fun to watch.

When I first heard about Hustle I assumed it would be a strict drama about ABSCAM, the FBI sting operation from the late 1970s and early 1980s that brought down several public officials. After the opening credits we saw this one title card that read:

“Some of this actually happened.”

I saw that as a warning to not take this movie too seriously, and I’m glad I didn’t. Yes, it’s hard to know what is real and what is fictional, but overall this movie is pretty solid and I enjoyed watching the actors ham it up for the camera.

American Hustle 2013 poster

Picture it.

1978. New York. Irving Rosenfeld (Bale) and Sydney Prosser (Adams) are lovers and con artists, and they are eventually caught by an intense FBI agent named Richie DiMasio (Cooper). Richie enlists the duo to help him take down corrupt public officials, and the do-gooder mayor of Camden, NJ, Carmine Polito (Renner), gets caught up in the fray. And I must mention Irving’s young wife Rosalyn (Lawrence) who is drinker and a stay-at-home mom, and probably needs her own adult supervision.

Louis C.K. makes a hilarious appearance as Richie’s boss, and he’s bewildered at the nonsense that is approved to help the sting operation become a success. An uncredited Robert De Niro appears as a mob boss (what else?).

Lawrence or Cooper?

Together Bale and Adams share the most screen time, but there’s talk about Jennifer Lawrence stealing the movie. She is definitely electrifying in all of her scenes, and she does a great job of playing a young wife who is so sure of herself even when she’s dead wrong. Mixed in with the funny moments are some serious scenes where Rosalyn hurts because her husband keeps a mistress and shuts her out of all areas of his life.

Bradley Cooper in American Hustle

Ultimately I’d give the scene-stealer award to Bradley Cooper’s Richie DiMasio character. He’s lively, energetic, crazed, and a little bit wackier than Rosalyn. The funniest part is that Richie doesn’t realize he’s the dumbest person in the room. He’s working with con artists to take down corrupt officials, and it never occurs to him that a con artist or a corrupt official would lie to him or give him false information.

Some of his stand-out scenes are with his boss Stoddard, played perfectly by comedian Louis C.K. Stoddard knows very well that in the blink of an eye Richie can go from an semi-obedient FBI agent to a disgruntled employee swinging a heavy telephone.

Final thoughts

I can easily see Amy Adams scoring an Academy Award nomination for Best Actress. She is incredibly smart, seductive, and emotional, and Adams takes us on a wild ride as her Sydney adopts different personalities as needed to help protect herself during the sting. Also, her back, legs, and breasts are frequently on display so she’s nice to look at too.

I enjoyed watching these A-list actors completely transform into their characters and the 2 hour running time seemed to fly by. American Hustle will be a good addition to anyone’s movie collection and I also recommend seeing it at the movie theater before it’s run is over.

Let me know what you thought about American Hustle. Did it live up to the hype?

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