In 1978 New York, brilliant con man Irving Rosenfeld (Christian Bale), along with his equally cunning and seductive partner Sydney Prosser (Amy Adams), is forced to work for wild FBI agent, Richie DiMaso (Bradley Cooper). DiMaso pushes them into a world of Jersey powerbrokers and Mafia that's as dangerous as it is enchanting. Carmine Polito (Jeremy Renner), the passionate, volatile, New Jersey political operator, is caught between the con-artists and the Feds, who are hoping to snare several politicians in a corruption sting. Irving's unpredictable wife Rosalyn (Jennifer Lawrence) could be the one to pull the thread that brings the entire world crashing down. (Inspired by real events)
Review by Louise Keller:
A deliciously entertaining movie about the perfect con, corruption and how to survive on thin ice, American Hustle starts its hustling right from the get-go with its edgy script, winning cast and fab jazzy score. Following the wave of success from his 2012 Silver Linings Playbook, director David O. Russell fuses all the elements together in a rollercoaster ride filled with risks and stings, raw emotions and impossible relationships. With its allegedly true plot concocted within the fabric of the FBI's Abscam scandal in the late 70s and early 80s in which white collar crime involving politicians was targeted, this stimulating, funny, sexy and outrageous tale rolls with the punches and delivers a romping good time.
The opening scene set-up sucks us in. It begins with paunchy Christian Bale (as Irving Rosenfeld) pasting tufts of hair onto his receding hairline and ends with him being pacified by Amy Adams' former stripper Sydney Prosser, after a tense altercation with Bradley Cooper's slick, ambitious FBI agent Richie DiMaso. There is a lot going on - and we ain't seen nothin' yet. I like the way the screenplay (by Russell and Eric Singer) subsequently introduces us to Irving and Sydney when they hook up at a 1978 Long Island pool party and provides each with their own voice, as we get their backstory and what they see in each other. The will to survive - even if the choices are bad - is what connects them; audacity, intuition and street smarts are their tools.
We quickly get a sense of the teamwork between Irving and Sydney as they conduct their scams. The psychology of being reticent to accept money seemingly makes them irresistible. But the texture of their life is far from smooth. Jennifer Lawrence as Irving's demanding wife Rosalyn whose personality matches her sweet and sour nails is a wonderful creation; she is almost unrecognisable under a swept up mop of long blond hair, pouts and tantrums. And Richie, who is as uptight as his tightly permed hair, has the FBI behind him as he joins forces with Irving and Sydney to set a sticky trap. (Cooper is excellent.)
The main event involving a fictitious Sheik (Michael Peña) as the bait, Mayor Carmine Polito (Jeremy Renner), his politician friends, mobster Pete Musane (Jack Huston) and Mafia boss (Robert DeNiro) plays out in brilliantly colourful style with heart in mouth moments, tension, hilarity and hot sex. The scene in which Adams and Lawrence are pitted against each other as the mistress meets the wife is one of those memorable performance moments. I love the running gag between Cooper and Louis C.K (as Richie's FBI boss), who starts telling him a story about ice-fishing in the mid west, but Richie keeps interrupting him.
With his hunched shoulders and weight gain, Bale creates a tangible survivor in Irving, while Adams is breathtakingly good, her Sydney never shy to expose her breasts in slashed to the waist outfits, but reluctant to reveal her inner self. The essence of 'being real' is a vital plot point, especially in the sexual tug-of-war between Irving and Richie, who Sydney plays against each other.
The production design reeks with authenticity and the music is especially involving with great tracks from the era and you will not forget the scene when Lawrence sings along to the Bond theme 'Live and Let Die'. I sat on the edge of my seat engrossed throughout, constantly wondering who was conning whom and where was it all leading. But of course, that's part of the fun.
Review by Andrew L. Urban:
The fact that 'some of this actually happened' as the opening title card says with a tone of incredulity we can almost hear, gives the film enormous extra bite. It might seem just too far fetched otherwise, and be dismissed as a piece of exaggerated crime adventure borrowing from the playbook of people like Tarantino. Let me hasten to add this is not a Tarantino-esque movie, but very much a David O. Russell work. (You'll know him from Silver Linings Playbook, Three Kings, The Fighter).
The characters are brilliantly written and performed; a bunch of people each trying to survive in their shaky world and doing some crazy things in the process. Christian Bale bulks up as Irving and wears a toupee with comb-over and while meeting this character is a bit of a shock, it's a much more complex persona that we get to know. Bale continues to impress with his range and resourcefulness in nailing character for us.
Amy Adams as Sydney, his partner in con-crime, looks sweet but bites like a viper and creates an unsettlingly mercurial character. So does the amazing Jennifer Lawrence (chubbier than when she was hungry at the games); her Rosalyn is a fascinating blonde bombshell - which explodes just at the wrong time.
Bradley Cooper (a Russell favourite since Silver Linings) is superb in the difficult role of the wild FBI agent with a flaring temper and an honourable ambition to clean up high level corruption, his blue eyes expressing joy and despair - as the situation warrants.
As for Jeremy Renner as New Jersey Mayor Carmine Polito, it's a pleasant surprise to see him in a character role where the only physical action he gets is giving Irving a slap or two. He is a fine actor and we should see more of him in demanding character roles.
The screenplay is outstanding, taking us on an ever changing course where the dramatic scenery shifts from tense to bizarre to deadly to hilarious. As an observation of America in the late 70s, it provides insight as well as commentary - not to mention a great 70s soundtrack (plus a clever underscore by Danny Elfman).
Russell's direction ensures that the characters remain real, despite the surreal circumstances and their questionable moral choices, avoiding the pitfall of making them comedic caricatures, which would lessen the film's value. The currency is the human condition and we can tell it is all authentic - all too regrettably so.
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AMERICAN HUSTLE (MA15+)
CAST: Christian Bale, Amy Adams, Jeremy Renner, Bradley Cooper, Jennifer Lawrence, Robert De Niro, Jack Huston, Michael Pena,
PRODUCER: Megan Ellison, Jonathan Gordon, Charles Roven, Richard Suckle
DIRECTOR: David O. Russell
SCRIPT: David O. Russell, Eric Warren Singer
CINEMATOGRAPHER: Linus Sandgren
EDITOR: Alan Baumgarten, Jay Cassidy, Crispin Struthers
MUSIC: Danny Elfman
PRODUCTION DESIGN: Judy Becker
RUNNING TIME: 129 minutes
AUSTRALIAN DISTRIBUTOR: Roadshow
AUSTRALIAN RELEASE: December 12, 2013