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?



*spoilers below*

The FBI moves in, and Carroll starts the escape plan

With Joey Matthews in the FBI’s custody, he has given them a detailed description of the Crazy House. The FBI starts house hunting.

Carroll is still suffering from his deep stab wound and he is becoming very erratic in his thoughts and behavior. With Roderick gone he tries to lean on Emma’s support. She is still wary of him after he slapped her recently.

Carroll decides to enact his getaway plan and he enlists the help of Emma, Jacob and a couple other followers. Jacob doesn’t seem too confident of Carroll’s ability to lead the followers but he goes with the plan anyways.

The FBI finds the dead body of a follower hanging inside the empty Crazy House. Meanwhile, Jacob, Emma, Carroll, and Claire have invaded the home of Vicki Gray and her husband in Havenport, Maryland.

Crazy finds the FBI

The FBI searches the empty house and Ryan finds a note: Dear Ryan, the final chapter has begun.

Back at the Gray’s residence, Carroll and the team are hiding out until nightfall. Jacob says he feels uncomfortable and when he joined the cult he thought it would just be him and Emma.

Outside the FBI headquarters a couple followers have arrived and joined the crowd of news reporters. Ryan goes outside because he thinks they might be there but he can’t identify them. One follower starts doing an interview with a local news reporter and starts quoting ‘The Masque of the Red Death’, then the follower stabs the reporter and gets taken down by Ryan.

Dinner with the Grays

Ryan talks to ‘Annabelle Lee’ and demands to know where Claire is. He flips a table and puts a gun to the woman’s head. She says Claire has to die so Ryan can be reborn.

Carroll has cooked a pasta dinner for everyone. Claire asks Carroll to spare the Grays’ lives and have them deliver a message to Ryan. Carroll said a message is already being delivered.

Emma apologizes to Jacob and says she wishes she could make things right. Jacob kisses and holds her and says everything will be okay.

Claire hurts Carroll again

Two police officers are checking out the neighborhood and they arrive at the Grays’ residence. Emma answers the door, and one of the officers hesitates after he realizes she doesn’t live in the home. She shoots the officers. In the dining room, Carroll untied Claire so she could pour some wine. When he gets distracted by Emma’s gunshots, she hits him over the head, stabs him in his wound with a knife, frees the Grays and runs off with them.

Ryan, Parker and Weston are trying to figure out why The Masque of the Red Death is so prominent with Carroll and his followers. Weston concludes the followers are planning a mass death at a place where people may seek refuge – the local evacuation center. Some of them may be followers so the FBI goes in to do a sweep.

The plan is set into motion.

Mayhem breaks out. Ryan makes eye contact with a guy he saw earlier outside of the FBI center. The guy gives a signal and the followers start attacking everyone nearby. The FBI shoots down some followers while Ryan chases down the guy he recognized. Parker gets trapped by two followers.

Claire and the Grays are running but they are tracked down by Jacob and Emma. They capture Claire and let the other two run free.

Goodbye Jacob

With the FBI distracted at the evacuation center, Carroll arrives at a boat with Claire, Emma, and Jacob. He boards with Claire and heads to sea, while Emma and Jacob get back into the car. He tells Emma that they should escape, instead of sticking around and eventually dying for Carroll. Emma says ‘I love you, and I love Joe, but I don’t know how to love you both.’ She slits Jacob’s throat and he dies.

Weston notices Parker is missing. She was captured by two followers who have dragged her into an empty coffin. They nail it shut and start piling dirt on top of the coffin as Parker screams from inside.



Paul…is that you?

Jacob hallucinates that Paul is alive and emerging from the shower. Jacob goes to the shower and finds Emma’s dead body. She was stabbed to death. Then Jacob wakes up.

Jacob wanders around the Crazy House and sees Joey, who is happy to reunite with him. Jacob ignores Emma when she tries to speak to him and explain why she abandoned him and Paul.

Carroll meets with Jacob and politely asks him to forgive Emma and talk to her. Jacob sees Paul again, who appears and says ‘Emma is a selfish bitch, always was.”

Jacob finds Emma and they talk. Emma says that she’s sorry about Paul and she loved him too. She says Roderick told her to leave with Joey, but Jacob isn’t buying it and he says she could’ve saved them.

Later, Emma tries again to connect with Jacob. She wants him to trust her again and she says that she loves him. They start making out. He is once again haunted by Paul, who says that he is dead because of her. Paul says that Emma needs to die. Jacob ‘kills’ Paul again, and then he tells Emma that he smothered Paul with a pillow. He says ‘I have a real taste for it now. I’d watch my back if I were you.’

– – – – – –

Carroll and Roderick clash

Carroll has two followers who are skilled at hacking the FBI. They are Vince and Brock. They hacked a satellite system and attempted to contact Claire. Roderick wants to leave and do his work as Sheriff, but Joe tells him that he failed twice to get Claire so he needs to skip work and get her.

– – – – – –

Claire, where are you?

Ryan wants to speak to Amanda Porter (from the Love Hurts episode) but the FBI team in D.C. are holding her. Ryan threatens to quit if he isn’t put in charge of Claire’s protection detail and Donovan reluctantly allows it.

Ryan meets at the hotel where Claire is hiding. He tells her about the Claire Matthews saga from the Love Hurts episode. He tells her that she needs to be moved somewhere safe.

Roderick, Vince, and Brock arrive at the hotel. They have found the floor she’s on, and they all put on masks and grab guns. Roderick has a master key that he’s using to open all of the hotel doors.

Roderick finds her room but they are too late. Ryan and Claire escape from the hotel and one of the followers tries to hold her at gunpoint. Ryan says ‘You’re not going to shoot her,” and he shoots the guy. Claire hops in Ryan’s car and they drive off.

– – – – – –

Ryan gets some help

Parker and Donovan don’t know where Ryan and Claire are headed to and apparently they are unable to track her.

Ryan drives to the home of Tyson, a former FBI agent who is now in witness protection. Also, he plays Batista on Dexter!

2005 flashback. Tyson tells Ryan that if he publishes ‘The Poetry of a Killer’ then he’ll always be that ‘Joe Carroll guy’. He thinks the book is a bad idea but he still supports Ryan.

While Ryan is freshening up, Claire decides to ask Tyson about Ryan’s love life. Tyson tells her about Molly, and there’s a 2009 flashback with Molly and Ryan flirting. Tyson tells Claire that Ryan always pushes women away but she is the only woman he’s ever really cared about.

Tyson and Ryan find a chip in Claire’s sweater, and conclude the followers are tracking Claire and they know her location. Meanwhile, the FBI still doesn’t know where Claire is, and they have the bright idea that Ryan has taken her to his home, which was wishful thinking on their part.

– – – – – –

And… they arrive!

Carroll meets Joey in the kitchen for lunch and tries again to talk to him. They make s’mores.

Ryan, Tyson, and Claire are still waiting for the followers to show up. She wants to know why Ryan never called her for 8 years, and she says “What if I said I love you?’ and he said ‘I’d say that’s a really bad idea, and I love you too.’ Then they make out.

Roderick, Vince, and Brock are closing in on Claire’s location. Tyson shoots and kills Brock.

Roderick goes to the front door and yells for Claire to come out. Tyson is shot when he goes outside to find the followers. Claire runs outside and approaches Roderick and Vince. She says ‘Take me to my son’ and she gets in the car with them. They drive off with her.

– – – – – –

Another guest stops by the Crazy House

FBI team find an online portal that looks like a possible recruiting tool or online get-together for Carroll’s followers.

Ryan is at the hospital with Tyson when he gets a phone call from Carroll, who taunts him about Claire. Ryan says that he quits, but we all know that isn’t true.

2005 flashback. Tyson tells Ryan to stop pushing Molly away because of a fictional death curse. Ryan believes anyone who comes around him eventually dies.

A guest stops by to see Carroll- it’s Molly!



The FBI guy standing directly in front of the door and gets shot by Roderick.
Why the hell is Claire asking about Ryan’s love life when she has murderous psychos on her ass?