Review written by John McGinn
American Hustle is a disappointing chaotic and beautiful mess of a film with a plot that becomes convoluted with every con, twist and turn, and by the end you won’t care about the plot, and leave the theater wondering what you just watched. American Hustle is thankfully saved by the excellent cast, and the eclectic cast of characters in the film.
Yes I was a little disappointed with American Hustle, and the overall plot of the film. Thankfully what makes American Hustle such a good film are the actors and cast of characters. Christian Bale stars as Irving Rosenfeld a small time business man who owns a few dry cleaners, but makes most of his money as a con artist. The character is balding, overweight with heart problems, but doesn’t let his limitations stop him from getting what he wants. It was a welcome change to see Bale in such a different role from the suave good looking dark knight Bruce Wayne, and Bale again shines as Rosenfeld. Just like Rosenfeld, Sydney Prosser is determined to escape her old miserable life as a stripper into Edith Greensly. Amy Adams is superb playing the dangerous, sexy, and complicated Sydney. While Rosenfeld and Prosser find love together a con artist is a con artist and will con even the people he or she loves like having an adopted son, and Rosalyn Rosenfeld a stay at home unhinged wife who is terrified of change. Now Lawrence was funny playing the fierce Rosalyn with raw and primal energy, and Rosalyn slowly grows throughout the film, but it wasn’t Lawrence’s best performance of her career, and not her best performance this year. Still even with it not being her best performance Lawrence still shines throughout the film, and is worthy of an Oscar nomination.
As for the rest of the cast the majority of them gave good performances. Michael Peña was great playing a FBI agent who poses as Sheik Abdullah, and Robert De Niro was splendid in his brief role as Victor Tellegio. The only questionable acting choice or character in American Hustle was Jeremy Renner as Mayor Carmine Polito. While I like Renner, and know the character was necessary in the plot for Irving to come to some realizations the actor and character just didn’t seem to fit, and left the role lacking throughout the film. I am somewhat divided on Richard DiMaso and actor Bradley Cooper. I know director David O. Russell loves to bring out the dark and crazy side of his characters displaying to the world that we’re all have a few screws loose, but Russell and Cooper to DiMaso to the extreme as the FBI agent entraps Irving, and Sydney forcing them to help him nap other criminals. While at times laughed and really enjoyed Cooper playing the ambitious DiMaso the character could at times be off-putting and just plain annoying, but with the quality of acting, and Russell’s directing these small flaws didn’t keep me from enjoying the film.
I guess I should speak briefly about the plot as that was what I had the biggest problem with while watching American Hustle. The film is very loosely based on events in the 1970’s, and written by Eric Warren Singer and David O. Russell. The plot involving DiMaso using Irving, and Sydney to get an ever growing number of politician and criminals becomes more convoluted as the stakes get higher, and everyone is conning, and using each other to get what they desire out of the situation. That plot drags on for too long, and by the end I just didn’t care about that part of the story, and if you look at it that way, and just focus on the great cast of characters, and how the plot is there for the characters to evolve grow, and change than the story does work.
David O. Russell is at his best crafting great characters, and bringing out the best in his actors as he has done in Silver Linings Playbook, Three Kings, and The Fighter, and continues to do so here with American Hustle. There is something I’ve noticed with his directing. Russell loves writing flawed and slightly unhinged characters as well as dipping his feet into the darkness of those said characters yet never truly submerging into the darkness which I enjoy, and continues to do so here with American Hustle. Russell could have easily taken a darker turn with the film, but wanted to display people’s ability to change, and grow showing everyone has hope for the future no matter how messed up they are, and I enjoy that about Russell. If there was a flaw to his directing of American Hustle it would be in his writing, and how he put the film together, but I believe what we got was Russell’s attention all along, and it just didn’t work completely on film, and again that was a small complaint to Russell great directing job in American Hustle.
American Hustle does disappoint in the story department most likely keeping the film from being nominated or being a serious contender for best picture award at the Oscars, American Hustle certainly doesn’t disappoint in every other department from an excellent cast that includes Amy Adams, Christian Bale, Robert De Niro, Jennifer Lawrence, and Bradly Cooper where Lawrence, Adams, and Bale are the crowning jewels giving Oscar worth performances to the wonderful out of this world characters that spring to life as well as the music, and top not directing by David O. Russell making American Hustle a film that shouldn’t be missed.
4 out of 5 Stars