David O. Russell smashed it in 2012 with Silver Linings Playbook (which I reviewed here) and he was back at the end of last year with something a little different, American Hustle. I say it’s a little different in the context that it isn’t a twist on the rom-com, its a twist on the heist movie genre – loosely based on the real events of the ‘Abscam’ plot by the FBI to take down the corrupt members of congress in the 70’s. In this version we focus on 3 central characters, Irving Rosenfeld the con-artist (Christian Bale), Sydeny Prosser, Irving’s mistress and partner in crime (Amy Adams) and Richie DiMaso the twisted FBI agent (Bradley Cooper). Focus also falls on 2 supporting characters, Jennifer Lawrence as Rosalyn Rosenfeld the neurotic wife, and Jeremy Renner as Mayor Carmine Polito.
The introduction to this film had me hooked, Bale’s narration to set up the events that followed was very intriguing and the use of flashbacks to lure you in worked a treat. I enjoyed seeing the characters Irving and Sydney fall in to a whirl wind romance and it introduced them to the film in such a powerful way I felt immediately connected to them. As well as the direction and editing, Bale and Adam’s performances are brilliant. I have never seen Bale in such a transformational role before and I was VERY impressed by the way he managed to perfectly balance Irving’s dark and vulnerable side to make him the most likable middle aged balding con-man you’ll see on the big screen to date. Adam’s also blew me away with her charm and charisma, something that was completely lacking in her recent role as Lois in Man of Steel. But together, there was a certain warming chemistry that really made their relationship believable.
That is up until Cooper’s FBI Agent DiMaso enters the story, then the fun really begins. DiMaso is an unstable character, much like his character in Silver Linings but not as innocent and not half as likable. Traditionally the FBI would be in the role of ‘good guy’, but DiMaso is so hell bent on achieving fame for bringing down the corrupt congressmen that he will stop at nothing. It makes his character hard to like but makes the story that much more compelling. The scenes in which Cooper and Adam’s share intimate moments with are hard to ignore, as Adam’s proves she can create spine-tingling sexual tension with just about anyone except Superman.
As supporting roles go, Lawrence steals the show with her performance as Irving’s neglected wife – taking most of the memorable lines and scenes that will stick in your head after viewing. She is at first
quite unassuming and portrayed as the bimbo Irving keeps at home painting her nails and cleaning the house. As the story continues though she becomes one of the cleverest, most manipulative and fiendish of the whole cast. Her neuroticism is displayed for all to see, and Lawrence plays it flawlessly.
Renner’s role as Mayor Carmine really took me by surprise, I much prefer him in a role such as this as I didn’t find him a very convincing superhero (sorry!). He is their mark to take down the big dogs but his character is where you as the audience really start to question the boundaries between good and bad. That is what makes this story interesting, it isn’t your typical con-artist film, it make the audience (and the characters) question what is morally right and wrong, whether the ‘good guys’ are acting for the wrong reasons, and makes you sympathize with what would traditionally be the ‘bad guys’.
So an intriguing story and a compelling cast teamed with an AMAZING sound track and fantastic direction, I really couldn’t rave about this film any more. I have read many reviews that say the plot doesn’t add up to the characters but I have to disagree, I was hooked on the story as well. In David O. Russell’s defense, character study is what he does best and I believe he did a fantastic job of merging a much more complicated story line with the in depth portrayal of the characters too.
My POV then, a must see, whether it be at the cinema or when it is released on DVD. I know I will be buying a copy and am looking forward to seeing it again. It reminded me of the twist on romance we see in Tarantino’s ‘True Romance’ (1993) plus the action and intrigue from films such as ‘Ocean’s Eleven’ (2011) and ‘Argo’ (2013) with an obvious hint of O. Russell’s previous work. Loved it!