Director: David O. Russell
Cast: Christian Bale, Amy Adams, Bradley Cooper, Jeremy Renner, Jennifer Lawrence, Robert De Niro
Plot: An overzealous FBI agent forces a con man and his female partner to help him nab a politician and other powerful people for cheating and bribing.
Review: I read somewhere that David O. Russell is not so high on plot and more focused on characters. It certainly reflects his work on The Fighter and Silver Linings Playbook, but none more so than American Hustle. But in my humble opinion, he overshot his mark here.
American Hustle is set in the 70s, where Russell talks about Abscam, the supposed scam by a fake Arabian sheikh involving politicians in the US. The lead characters here are based on actual people involved. Basically it follows con man Irving Rosenfeld and his lover Sydney Prosser, and how they're forced by FBI agent Richie Dimaso to take down the Mayor of New Jersey, Carmine Polito, who seems like a real stand up guy, but whom Dimaso suspects to be corrupt.
I'll tell you what I like about it first. I like the look of the film. It's authentic and over the top at the same time. I mean, can you imagine Bradley Cooper putting on curls? He literally did it to get that permed curly look on his head, it's crazy but kinda awesome. Then there's the costumes and the soundtrack, very retro and fitting for the era. Some of the punchlines here are pretty good too, I'll give them that.
But man, Russell not only made this a character driven piece, he decided to let each of them go off the deep end on histrionics. Nearly every character (except maybe Robert De Niro's character) goes on and on yelling and arguing like they're all having PMS. Some of it is quite entertaining, sure. But at some point I found it too much and not moving the story along at all.
I'm man enough to admit that all of the lead actors did well in their roles despite the above flaws. Christian Bale is cool as a cucumber, and fitting as con man Irving. Amy Adams is sexy as hell as Sydney. Cooper is charming and likable as Richie, and you gotta love Jeremy Renner's Elvis perm (and his screen presence) as Carmine. I didn't love Jennifer Lawrence as Irving's wife Rosalyn though. She was basically playing her Silver Linings Playbook character all over again, except she yells a lot more here. Plus she isn't an integral part of the whole FBI scheme, so she seems to be here just because Russell wanted her here.
As I said, the character driven attempt by Russell isn't appealing to me, I can't speak for everyone. To me, this only lengthened the film's runtime unnecessarily. I would have preferred Russell to have a tighter hold on his script's flow overall.
It's not a bad film, some of you might just like this more than me. But all the same, I think I'd rather go back and watch The Fighter again. (3/5)