Review: American Hustle


You can’t blame director David O. Russell for continuing to work with Christian Bale and Bradley Cooper – they’re both exceptional at what they do. Two years after Bale stole the show in the The Fighter and barely a year after Cooper earned critical acclaim in Silver Linings Playbook, all three have teamed up for the late 70’s comedic drama American Hustle.

American Hustle is the tale  of Irving Rosenfeld (Christian Bale), a con man with a heart of gold and his partner/girlfriend Sydney Prosser (Amy Adams) who find themselves having to cooperate with over-zealous FBI agent Richie DiMaso (Bradley Cooper) in a sting operation.

On top of dealing with the DiMaso’s ignorance as well as his eagerness to arrest high level politicians, Rosenfeld has a bitter wife (played by Jennifer Lawrence) who’s making his life miserable at any way she can.

DiMaso’s brash tactics (and overall asshole behavior) started as a simple sting operation but lead to an unexpected customer that could put Rosenfeld, Prosser, and the people they love in danger.

American Hustle is no Good Fellas. It’s not even Donnie Brasco (which also features the ABSCAM). It is one part mob story, one part comedy, and the third part is about survival.

The film’s plot may not impress audiences the way David O. Russell’s previous films have, but its brilliant performances just might be enough to win people over. Christian Bale continues to show why he’s one of the best actors in Hollywood. The way he transformed into an out of shape con man with an awful comb over is incredible. It’s not only that he looks the part, it’s that you believe he’s Irving Rosenfeld every time he’s on screen.

Bradley Cooper and Amy Adams do their best not to be outdone by Bale. Coopers boyish charm is on full display even when he’s a sleazy FBI agent with rollers in his hair. This is surprisingly one of my favorite Amy Adam’s performances. She does a beautiful job wearing Sydney’s pain in every scene. She’s so good it feels like she’s running a con on the audience.

The film’s supporting cast is superb. Louis C.K adds his comedic talents to the film as DiMaso’s boss, Stoddard Thorsen. Louis C.K and Cooper have great chemistry together in their scenes, including a very funny running joke where Throsen keeps trying to tell  DiMaso an ice fishing story about his brother.

Jeremy Renner is great as Carmine Polito – a mayor willing to do anything to help his city. His fantastic performance is going to be  overshadowed and ultimately forgotten because of the film’s big guns. It’s like he’s a real life Hawkeye.

Boardwalk Empire’s Jack Huston makes an appearance. It was good to finally see his whole face.

The big flaw with American Hustle is how it all wraps up a little too neatly. For a film that’s first two acts have a cleverly woven story , the end of the third act feels lazy.  The film feels like it should have a big twist or a big reveal scene at the end. Nope. It just has a nice and tidy ending.

Despite American Hustle jogging from third base to home in the final 20 minutes, the performances by the actors make it a must see.

Grade: B