Reviewed by Daniel Janks: actor, creative director, writer, cynic, father, husband. He was born in 1977 and has still not died. He loves many things, chief among which are his mythic wife and odd girl-child. Visit his website.
Director David O. Russell
Writer David O. Russell
Cast Christian Bale, Amy Adams, Bradley Cooper
AGE RESTRICTION: R
This is definitely a date night film, rather than a Sunday night family flik. Leave-o the kids at home-o!
This is a surprising movie. And it isn’t. It isn’t surprising in how good it is. One isn’t surprised by a good David O. Russell film. This is the man behind Silver Linings Playbook, The Fighter, Three Kings, I Heart Huckabees and more. His films are great. They’re gritty, real and highly enthralling and entertaining to boot. And one isn’t surprised by great performances delivered by Christian Bale, Amy Adams, Bradley Cooper, Jeremy Renner or Jennifer Lawrence, some of the most exciting actors working in Hollywood today. And of course one isn’t surprised by enjoying a con movie. Who doesn’t like con movies? None of this is surprising, but the film still manages to surprise.
American Hustle tells the true-ish story of Irving Rosenfeld, a fat, balding, not very charming con man who manages to cause one of the most infamous scandals in American history. He, and his partner the sultry British seductress Sydney Prosser, become undercover FBI snitches who take the decidedly and deliciously weird, Special Agent Richie DiMasso, on a roller coaster ride trying to catch Carmine Polito, the almost honest Mayor of Atlantic City. Along the way they nab the largest collection of crooked US Congressmen in US criminal justice history.
As we’ve already ascertained no-one is surprised when great actors deliver great performances. But where the film did surprise me, is in the nature of the performances. Each and every key character is portrayed with a kind of hyper real frenetic fervour that is decidedly un-hollywood and both deeply unnerving and intricately fascinating.
David O. Russell has had a very diverse career. He dabbled in war action/comedy/dramas, intense character driven explorations of human nature, quirky romantic comedy/dramas and madcap off-the-wall ensemble comedies. In American Hustle he seems to try and mix all of them together. And he kinda manages it.
The result is a collection of performances that may, on the surface, seem more at home in Silver Linings Playbook than The Fighter. But once you allow the crazy to seep out of the acting and into the story, you quickly find yourself very at home in a world slightly off-kilter.
Everyone, bar none, is brilliant, but for me the standout performances belong to Silver Linings stars Bradley Cooper and Jennifer Lawrence, who are both breathtaking.
I’m a huge David O. Russell fan. He’s been pretty good at flying under the radar in terms of Hollywood hype, but I can’t imagine that that’s going to be possible for long. His films are gritty and real and also magically bizarre and different. They are paced fantastically and twist and turn surprisingly. His characters are fascinating and his stories enthralling. He is that most rare and precious thing in Hollywood. He is a unique voice. But he manages to be unique without jumping off the mainstream cliff and drowning in the sea of art-house obscurity below.
See it. Definitely see it. But don’t go expecting a Scorsese thriller. American Hustle is much more dynamic than that.