‘American Hustle’: Fantastic, from the feet up
by Logan Burd
American Hustle (2013)
Directed by David O. Russell
David O. Russell recycles his gang of goons, including Christian Bale and Amy Adams from “The Fighter” and Bradley Cooper and Jennifer Lawrence from Russell’s latest, 2012’s “Silver Lining Playbook” for “American Hustle,” the crime dramedy with more Golden Globe nominations than any other film this year. It deserves each and every one.
Con artists Irving Rosenfeld (Bale) and his love interest/partner-in-crime Sydney Prosser (Adams) are in the wrong place at the wrong time when they try to con FBI agent Richie DiMaso (Cooper). DiMaso offers to let them off if they help the FBI catch government officials taking bribes. Easy, they think. When they try to con Compton, New Jersey mayor Carmine Polito (Jeremy Renner), however, they get in deep. Maybe too deep to get out scotch-free. Especially with Rosenfeld’s ditsy wife Rosalyn (Lawrence) nosing her way into her husband’s intricate business.
This quirky comedy of errors was seemingly plucked right out of the disco era, using the 1978 Abscam sting operation as its jumping-off point. Russell’s script is something between quirky comedy and crime noire, especially with the annoying narration that plays an intricate role in setting up the story. That’s certainly one of the script’s greatest assets, its ability to set up a detailed, intricate story. You buy it for all of its nearly three hours. From beginning to end, Russell offers up a full story brimming with excitement and fun.
Russell already provided Christian Bale the role of a lifetime in “The Fighter,” for which Bale won the Oscar for Best Supporting Actor. Now Russell has set him up for the Best Actor win, which Bale more than deserves. He gained 43 pounds and shaved part of his head to play the balding, overweight Jewish conman, adding a small mole and a pair of 70s glasses to complete his character transformation. Bale truly becomes Irving Rosenfeld the entire time. He’s superb. Amy Adams gives her best performance in years, and Jeremy Renner shows more range than I’ve ever seen from him. Bradley Cooper is stellar, but it’s mama Jennifer Lawrence who settles into her role as the young, bitter Rosenfeld wife and fully convinces you of her clumsy struggles. If anyone besides Bale deserves an Oscar nod, it’s his comical movie wife. Louis C.K. is brilliant in a minor role as Cooper’s boss, and one Oscar-winner makes a short appearance in what I would call the perfect execution of a cameo.
“American Hustle” is one of the best films of 2013, deserving of at least a handful of Oscar nominations. It’s an intricate, well-executed, full story, starring the best ensemble of the year. It’s a fantastic film, from the feet up.
“American Hustle” is in theaters now.