American Hustle Review: The Art of the Con-Artist

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David O. Russell is one one hell of a winning streak.

His latest, American Hustle, is a ’70s set, Scorsese-esque caper filled with colorful characters and some of the best dialogue only late-year awards movies know how to deliver. A far cry from the instant boxing classic The Fighter and the therapy inducing rom-com Silver Linings Playbook, Russell has made one of the tensest, funniest films of the year.

Setting the tone right from the start, the first thing we see is a blunt confession: “Some of these events actually happened” in place of “Inspired by true events”. Clever.

The plot surrounds the shady figures involved in the ABSCAM FBI operation in the late 1970s. We have Irving (Christian Bale who’s Batman muscle turned straight into a beer gut, all for the role of course), the best con man in the state of New Jersey; Sydney (Amy Adams with a perfectly over-the-top English accent in every other scene), his sidekick and lover; Richie (Bradley Cooper) the FBI agent who teams up with them; Carmine (Jeremy Renner), the mayor of Camden, NJ; and Rosalyn (Jennifer Lawrence), Irving’s functional alcoholic of a wife. 

All five of the chief actors are splendid, something expected of a David O. Russell film at this point. Expect multiple nominations and a possibly a few wins for Bale, Adams, Cooper, and Lawrence this coming awards season.

But the actors aren’t the only ones hard at work. The script crackles with fiery dialogue of the gangster movies of old.

While it may run a little too long, and some characters might not get what they deserve in the end, American Hustle is a modern classic. The characters feel larger-than-life yet also grounded. The script is as funny as it is emotional. This is an all-around great film, one that simply cannot be missed. Grade: A-

By Matt Dougherty

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