Movie Review: 'American Hustle'

‘American Hustle’ is Oscar-bait.

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Fantastic performances, a compelling story based on a real-life scandal, and a frequently tragic-comic vibe make this one of the best films of the year.

Director David O. Russell (Silver Linings Playbook) has returned with another very human and entertaining drama that allows his actors brilliantly shining moments.

Christian Bale, Amy Adams, Bradley Cooper, and Jennifer Lawrence headline a terrific cast which also features Louis C.K., Michael Peña, and Jeremy Renner.

Bale is spectacularly talented, and Russell’s film really allows the actor the freedom to show audiences again why his name is attached annually, it seems, to film awards ballots. Bale’s ‘Irving Rosenfeld’ is a small-time con artist who fences stolen art and sells phony lines of credit. When Irving (and his truly epic comb-over) crosses paths with Adams’ whip-smart ‘Sydney Prosser’, the two partner up to fleece the unwitting marks that seek the promise of financial gain.

Enter unhinged FBI Agent Richie DiMaso (Bradley Cooper) to the mix, and ‘Amercian Hustle’ really takes off into a highly entertaining tale of bad behavior, questionable morality, government corruption, and some wonderfully bad fashion and hairstyle choices.

‘Amercian Hustle’ loosely tells the story of the ‘Abscam’ scandal which took place in the late Seventies and early Eighties. “Some of this actually happened…” is the film’s prologue. In reality, the scandalous Abscam fiasco resulted in criminal convictions for several politicians and was responsible for the “reform” of some FBI investigative policies.

Bradley Cooper, again under Russell’s direction after ‘Silver Linings Playbook,’ is mesmerizing in his role as the wildly ambitious and narcissistic agent who sets all of the chaos in motion.

Amy Adams is a lock for an Oscar nom as Sydney/Edith, who shrewdly plays the angles to secure her own future as a financially stable woman. Adams is flat-out dynamite in the role, sexy and smart.

The real surprise is Renner. Forget about ‘The Avengers’ or ‘Bourne.’ This is the Jeremy Renner that turned heads in ‘The Hurt Locker.’ Renner’s flawed-for-the-right-reasons politician gives ‘American Hustle’ is moral core. Without his performance, some of ‘American Hustle’ and it’s more poignant, dramatic elements simply would not work.

Besides the great acting, Russell’s film benefits greatly from an intelligent script and several very funny scenes. A lovingly recreated era of man-perms, disco, and gold chains, plus a killer retro soundtrack make ‘American Hustle’ an authentic and “mostly true” cautionary tale against greed and ambition.

Flixnerd Rating: ★★★★☆

Cinematic Pairing: ‘Carlito’s Way

Symbiotic Soundtrack: ‘Reservoir Dogs

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