FlixChatter Review: American Hustle

AmericanHustlePoster

Based on the ABSCAM scandal of the late 1970s, con-artists Irving Rosenfeld and Sydney Prosser are forced to work for a wild FBI agent, Richie DiMaso.

When I first heard David O. Russell was making this film, I was immediately drawn to it mainly because of the cast. It’s combining the best of The Fighter and Silver Linings Playbook, and just like many of O. Russell’s films, this one is one wild but entertaining ride. Right from the start, the movie gives me the giggles as it shows a good 10 minutes or so of Christian Bale‘s Irving Rosenfeld meticulously putting on his toupee. That alone is worth the price of admission if I were to pay full price at the cinema. I mean, it’s as if retro Mr. Bruce Wayne has been enjoying too much of his um, retirement. Bale is in his transformative role once again, gaining 55 pounds for the role, going the opposite route of what he did for The Fighter. He’s convincing as always, what with the Jersey accent and full-on con-man smarmy-ness, though at times his amazing transformation actually takes me out of the story a bit.

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The film shows how Irving became the con-man that he was, which he seems destined to be since he was a kid. It’s as much a story about Irving as it is about Sydney Prosser, his lover and partner in crime, played with wild abandon by Amy Adams. Posing as a British national, Sydney is seductive and perhaps even more cunning than her lover. Inconsistent British accent aside, Adams totally disappears into her role. Hard to believe this is the very same innocent Giselle from Enchanted. She also has a sultry chemistry with Bale, in fact, I tweeted right after the movie that there’s more sparks between her and fat, balding Batman than with the Man of Steel earlier this year 😉

As Irving and Sydney’s cunning schemes grew bolder, inevitably it caught the attention of the Feds and ambitious FBI agent Richie DiMaso (Bradley Cooper) soon got both working for him, hustled them into exposing Jersey power brokers and mafia underworld. It seems like an enchanting proposition but of course things are never as simple nor easy as they seem. It’s later revealed that Irving has a sexy but unpredictable wife Rosalyn (Jennifer Lawrence) who makes things even more complicated as the plan progresses. The 22-year-old once again displays that she could effortlessly portray someone much older than she is and hold her own against actors twice her age. Her deliberately campy performance steals scenes every time she appears, especially the bit involving a microwave.

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The story seems to shift the focus between the developing relationship of Richie & Sydney, as well as Irving and Jersey mayor Carmine Polito (Jeremy Renner). The latter ends up revealing Irving’s sense of humanity, what’s left of it at least, as he gains more sympathy for Carmine. The film plays like an ensemble cast of sort, with not one but a trio of protagonists (Irving, Sydney and Richie) with power plays entwining between the three of them. Though Cooper still has a long way from becoming one of my favorite actors, I’ve grown to appreciate him more and he does have dramatic as well as comic timing. There’s a cameo from Robert DeNiro which is one of the film’s highlights, though Michael Peña is the scene-stealer here in a brief but hysterical supporting role. I’ll let you see it for yourself what role he’s playing. Oh, stand-up comedian Louis C.K. is a hoot as Richie’s boss as well, that was an interesting casting that works pretty well. I think the cast is what makes this movie so enjoyable. I know a lot of people compare O. Russell’s direction style to Scorsese’s. Now, even if there’s some similarities, I don’t know why someone of O. Russell’s stature would ever need to copy someone else’s work.

What I think is the flaw of the film is the slightly off pacing and lack of emotional gratification. Through all the topsy-turvy scenarios, I don’t really have any emotional connection with any of the characters. Though the 1970s set pieces, costumes, vibe, etc. is convincingly retro, I didn’t always feel so immersed in that world as I had hoped. So in the end, it never became anything more than a fun and amusing ride featuring solid performances. Given the premise, there are crazy situations involving sex, drugs and a whole lot of scheming, but having seen The Wolf of Wall Street though, that one makes American Hustle looks like a PG-13 movie!

“I believe that you should treat people the way you want to be treated, didn’t Jesus say that? Also, always take a favor over money. Effin’ Jesus said that as well.” – Irving Rosenfeld

The screenplay was originally titled American Bullshit by Eric Warren Singer and was listed at #8 on the 2010 Black List of un-produced screenplays. O. Russell ended up co-writing the script for this one, which features some riotous dialogue and fun use of music. I especially enjoyed the scene of Rosalyn cleaning her house whilst singing Live and Let Die, complete with vinyl yellow gloves on. I had fun with this one, it’s as amusing as you’d expect and more freakishly hilarious as I thought it’d be. I don’t even mind watching this again when it’s out on dvd.

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4 out of 5 reels

So have you seen American Hustle? I’d love to hear what you think!

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74 thoughts on “FlixChatter Review: American Hustle

  1. I think you read my review, Ruth, and so I think you already know this. But I completely agree. This movie is a lot of fun, even if it isn’t much more than that.

    1. Yeah I remember your review, glad we agree on this one. I actually like this more than Wolf of Wall Street though both feature slimy criminals, ahah. I think all the cast members did an amazing job here.

      1. I like them both. And I certainly enjoy this one more, but I think Wolf a better executed film. It doesn’t have the big flaw that is a American Hustle’s voice over, you know?

      1. I do actually like this entire cast, though Adams can be sometimes a bit hit or miss for me but from the sound of your review she does a more than solid job here with this. It’s going on the list for sure. Hope you had a nice Christmas! 🙂

        1. I had a nice, mellow Christmas, hope you did too! Hope it’s not as cold in Ireland as here, we barely climb to ZERO degrees Fahrenheit today, brrrr!!

          I like Adams here, she gave quite a bravura performance though her British accent isn’t too convincing. I take it you like Christian Bale? He’s absolutely fun to watch here w/ his toupee and bloated tummy, ahah!

          1. Wow, that’s COLD! Thankfully it’s nowhere near freezing here yet, though the wind and the rain are making things pretty stormy. I too had a mellow Christmas, which was a nice (and welcome!) change. ;D

            The accent issues always bemuse me. I often think that if they wanted a character to be from a certain country, then why not cast an actor from that country? Don’t get me wrong, some actors can pull it off seamlessly, but those that can’t I often find distracting, as though their accent attempts detract from their performances.

            And I do like Bale! Seeing him with a toupee and a round belly will be a treat, no doubt!

  2. Great review, Ruth! I just saw this yesterday, and I agree, I was very impressed with Jennifer Lawrence’s performance, but I almost felt like Amy Adams’ portrayal was a bit forgettable. I think some of the storyline could’ve been condensed in some places, but overall it was pretty entertaining.

    1. Hi Ashley! Yeah, Jen was definitely a scene-stealer and effortlessly so. Amy was good in some parts though, I think guys would enjoy her seductive performance, ahah. I didn’t feel like it was too long but maybe because I enjoyed watching all these actors, even the small supporting roles by Michael Pena!

    1. The retro hairstyles are almost a *character* itself in the movie! It’s a lot of fun to see Bale and Cooper sporting their retro hairdo. If you like SLP I think you’ll like this one!

  3. Very nice review Ruth! I think I’m one of the only people who doesn’t really care for David O. Russell’s films. He certainly has a knack for drawing a wealth of talent to his pictures and this one’s certainly no different.

    1. Hi Keith! I like some of O. Russell movies, but not all. Like you said though, the cast here is a winner and it’s surprisingly even more hilarious than what I had thought. It’s not as vulgar as Wolf of Wall Street, though there’s plenty of scheming going on in both films obviously.

            1. It’s not just the look of it but the way Bale put together the toupee that’s hysterical! I LOVE the cast here, so I guess that’s part of why enjoyed this one a lot more than I otherwise would.

  4. Nice review, Ruth. Yeah, this one was definitely an actor’s movie, and everyone was really great here. Also, yes, LOVED the opening with Bale just putting his hair together. And his deadpan glare when Cooper ruffled his hair up afterwards, DEAD! LOL! XD

    1. Hi there Chris! I agree, this must be an actor’s dream to play such crazy characters, plus those costumes are awesome. Bale is absolutely marvelous and y’know, that scene when Cooper messed up his hair, I kinda feared for his life a bit. Don’t mess with Patrick Bateman, ahah.

  5. Ted S.

    “I know a lot of people compare O. Russell’s direction style to Scorsese’s. Now, even if there’s some similarities, I don’t know why someone of O. Russell’s stature would ever need to copy someone else’s work.”

    I was wondering the same thing too, as you know that’s one of my issues with this movie, Russell basically followed the style of Goodfellas step by step and I’ve read many reviewers who compared this film to that one. Also, I just didn’t find the plot that interesting, good performances but I sort of got bored half way through the film.

    1. Sorry to hear you’re not as fond of this one, Ted. Funny but I’m not as fond of Wolf of Wall Street despite some funny scenes. I haven’t seen Goodfellas so I don’t really have any issues w/ this one. I had fun w/ it, not boring at all for me 😀 Ah well, to each their own I guess.

  6. I love this film. As someone who survived the 70s (the economic downturn, dissatisfaction, the fashion…Disco), this captured the era so damn well. The ABSCAM scandal, the characters, and the time ring real. Perhaps my life experience is placing a bias, but this was really fun. The two flawed male leads were so much good, and only bettered by their female counterparts. I knew I’d love Jennifer Lawrence, but Amy Adams was a revelation in this. Man, was she great! And those who left her off acting nods are nuts, IMO. This might be my favorite David O Russell film now.

    1. Glad to hear Michael! I figure you’d have a special fondness of it as you grew up w/ the era. That’s nice to hear that the whole scenarios about the ABSCAM scandal felt real to you, I really think the set pieces, costumes, etc. really took me to that time and place.

      Yeah, I think the two female cast stole the show, Adams gave such a bravura performance, unlike nothing I’ve ever seen her before, yet she was a natural. I think I enjoyed this a bit more than Silver Linings, so yeah I think it’s my fave from O. Russell for me too. High five 😀

  7. Apparently Lawrence can really play just about any age. Slap some make–up on, and she’d probably pull off the role of an old lady… Very excited for the “crazy situations involving sex, drugs and a whole lot of scheming”, and I’ll make sure to catch this before Wolf of Wall Street, too, to make a greater impact. 😀

    1. Hi Elina! Yeah it’s crazy how Lawrence can look and act far more mature than her age. Though both this and ‘Wolf’ have similar situations and slimy con artists, I feel that this one is less vulgar. Overall I enjoyed this more and I’m willing to watch it again. I don’t think I’ll ever watch ‘Wolf’ again, I had to avert my eyes way too many times.

  8. I saw the film today as I really enjoyed it. Especially the cast as I enjoyed watching everyone in that film. Man, Lawrence was a real scene-stealer but Amy Adams…. oh…. she was gorgeous.

    1. I think both Adams and Lawrence surpass the two actors in this film, which is quite a feat in itself. Lawrence is always fun to watch and she turned on the camp level w/ this role! Adams was indeed very seductive, no doubt guys would love her performance 😉

  9. Good review Ruth. There’s no denying it, this movie is fun as hell. You can tell that everybody involved is having a wonderful time, and therefore, the feeling is palpable. Especially whenever Cooper shows up on the screen and just flashes his charm in ways we’ve never seen before.

    1. Yeah, that’s always fun to see when the actors had a good rapport w/ each other. It helps that the main cast has worked w/ O. Russell before, too. Cooper was good though I don’t really find him all that charming in general.

  10. Nice review Ruth! I can’t be too sure I’ll check this out until Oscars roll around and get to check out all the Best Picture nominees. I hate to admit that I can’t get passed the clips where everything looks out of place. Cooper seemed to be the only one that really gravitated towards me and I LOVE Bale and Adams too…Lawrence, I’m just not in love with her yet. :/

    1. Hi Katy! Not sure what you meant by “…can’t get passed the clips where everything looks out of place” I think you might still enjoy this if you like most of the cast. I love Lawrence but I guess not everybody does, she’s excellent here, but the entire cast is solid.

      1. Oh, sorry about that Ruth. I meant to write that I’ve been watching the “sneak peak” clips on YouTube, and the script/acting looks like it doesn’t gel. It might be just because I’m not watching the whole movie. I look forward to the cast and seeing how their performances rank. 🙂

  11. Another high rating…. 2013 is turning out to be quite a great year movies, right? It seems that American Hustle will be huge come Oscar season. I really need to see this…. can’t wait till it opens over here!

    1. Hello Mark, welcome back from Christmas break 😀 The DeNiro cameo is one of the highlights, suspenseful but hysterical as well, you will love it!

  12. Glad to hear that you enjoyed this one Ruth! I think David O. Russell is really starting to make a name for himself. From The Fighter, to Silver Linings Playbook, to this most likely Oscar contender; I’m really looking forward to future films that he will direct. Like you said, I really enjoyed the strong performances of the cast. Definitely one of my favorites of the year!

    1. Yeah he seems to be on a roll the past few years, but he has a knack for creating a stellar ensemble cast! I’m looking forward to what he’s got cookin’ next too! Thanks Raul!

    1. Oh it’s not SO bad that it derailed the film Ian. Don’t let that one comment stop you, I’d say it’s still worth a rent, or even a matinee showing 😀

  13. I loved the 70s retro feel, the music, the costumes — the whole film was a lot of fun. I do agree with you though about the being emotionally disconnected with the characters. It’s not that they weren’t fun to watch, it’s just that you couldn’t care for them or their situations. Anyway, one of the better films from 2013, for sure. Nice review, as always!

    1. Hi Cindy! Yeah the vibe was fun wasn’t it, I love seeing the set pieces and costumes… oh and the HAIR!! Bale’s toupee is just precious! It could’ve been a bit more deep in terms of story though, but it didn’t quite happen.

  14. I agree Amy had much better chemistry with Bale than Cavill in Man of Steel, I mean MoS was like watching siblings together. I saw AH last night – enjoyed it and entire cast was lovely, but for me the clear standout was Bale who was both so funny and a real heart of the story.

    1. Hi Sati! Well that kissing scene was pretty hot but that’s about it (maybe ’cause I like the idea of kissing Superman, ahah). But yeah, Adams and Bale were good together, you’re right, it’s Irving who’s the heart of the story. His relationship w/ Carmine makes him more human than the rest of the cast. I made an error saying ‘Sydney’ when it should’ve been Irving, oops!

        1. Glad to hear! Btw, do you mind sharing your name… I always like to address ppl by their name (real or alias) instead of by the blog name. If that’s ok w/ you 😀

            1. Ah I should’ve known that Mark! We’ve *met* before in Chris’ blogathon earlier this Summer 😀 Btw, just added you to the blogroll, been meaning to do that for a while!

      1. I don’t see a Scorsese-wannabe in him. Then again, his consistency is similar to Scorsese, as is the quality of his work – if he’s a Scorsese-wannabe, I’m not complaining! 🙂

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  16. Good review Ruth. I suspect you liked it much more than I do, but your points about the film’s high point are very well made. I am hoping to get to my writeup this week (after I finish with ‘Her’).

  17. I really liked this movie. It has a phenomenal cast, great production values, and it’s quite a ride. Still, it’s kinda forgettable, overall. :/

    1. Yeah I think overall it’s not a deep film, hence the forgettable nature. But there are some scenes I will always remember, esp. the opening w/ Bale putting on his toupee 😀

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