Review: American Hustle

Amy Adams, Bradley Cooper, Jeremy Renner, Christian Bale and Jennifer Lawrence in American Hustle.
Amy Adams, Bradley Cooper, Jeremy Renner, Christian Bale and Jennifer Lawrence in American Hustle.

John Connor’s Big Con
Rating: ***

A running joke in my movie group was that Christian Bale, who plays a con man in American Hustle is in fact a Connor – John Connor of Terminator: Salvation. In David O. Russell’s new film set in the late 70s, Bale plays Irving Rosenfield, an old school con artist who has found success, but is still thirsty for more.

This brings us to Sydney Prosser (Amy Adams) who joins Rosenfield’s con gang as Lady Edith Greensley, a fake British aristocrat. Adams has had her fair share of memorable performances but American Hustle (much like David O. Russell’s earlier film, The Fighter) travels to a land far away from her girl-next-door image. Here in American Hustle, she is the pot of gold – the reward everyone wants.

Justifiably, she buries herself underneath low-cut gowns and really (and I mean really) high heels. With all that glitz and makeup, one may wonder whether Adams was going to a Farrah Fawcett party and took the wrong bus.

Rosenfield’s guilt trip begins with Mayor Carmine Polito, a legit man, living a decent life, who is sweet talked into taking a bribe. Jeremy Renner is a fine candidate for the role of Mayor Polito. With two Oscar nominated roles in his kitty, this is cake walk for Renner.

The problem with American Hustle begins with Richie DiMasso, a young FBI agent (played by Bradley Cooper) who wants to be famous for pulling off the biggest intelligence operation ever. There are a couple of scenes that provide us little information on the life and times of DiMasso, which of course could have been avoided.

Much like Argo, American Hustle tries to become a personal battle than a political thriller. The success of ABSCAM isn’t the real deal, Rosenfield’s survival is.

He’s a con artist, and he helps FBI pull off a scam. But, what makes Rosenfield a common man is his estranged, neurotic wife (played by Jennifer Lawrence). She explains in one scene “you can’t divorce me because you fear I’ll talk about your illegal activities.”

That’s right, Rosenfield. You’re whipped for life!

American Hustle is a star-studded seventies crime comedy that bears plenty of resemblance to the Martin Scorsese mafia classic Goodfellas. There are the voiceovers (one each for Bale, Adams and Cooper), the constant usage of classic rock and jazz music, and of course Robert De Niro as a mafioso.

American Hustle is an old-fashioned, unapologetic, commercial cocktail prepared in Russell’s trademark style. It’s clever, funny and sometimes over the top. But, that’s the joie de vivre in watching a David O. Russell film.

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