GRADE: 5 out of 5
This could easily end up being your usual Con movies like Ocean’s Eleven, Matchstick Men, or Confidence. But thanks to director David O. Russell’s exceptional writing along with scribe Eric Russell, AMERICAN HUSTLE explores the demons that bother the characters; their messed up state of mind. AMERICAN HUSTLE is not only one of the best Con movies, it’s not just one of the best movies of 2013, it’s simply one of the best movies ever made.
A con man, Irving Rosenfeld, along with his seductive British partner, Sydney Prosser, is forced to work for a wild FBI agent, Richie DiMaso. DiMaso pushes them into a world of Jersey powerbrokers and mafia.
Two things that will stay in people’s heads long after they’re done watching AMERICAN HUSTLE, two images that will burn in memory forever, there are two things that people will always talk about whenever the topic of AMERICAN HUSTLE comes up in a conversation. One being Christian Bale’s character’s elaborate combover, and the other is Amy Adams’ hypnotic cleavage. Those two practically demand attention and they’ll have yours for sure. They are downright scene-stealers. But even those two aspects speak much about the characters, they’re not there designed to simply distract you. David O. Russell has a certain intelligence that few filmmakers today have out there, and that is the ability to truly pay attention to each character, he knows how to put an ensemble cast together and be fair about them. If you see The Fighter and Silver Linings Playbook, the former may have been about the brothers, and the latter may have been about the two leads, the couple, but none of the supporting roles were ever neglected, they played equally impacting roles. The same case with AMERICAN HUSTLE, this isn’t a Christian Bale movie and everybody is just trying to keep up. The actors in AMERICAN HUSTLE may all might as well be leads, because the writing is so thorough and precise, it allows the actors to not only understand what they have to do, down to the last details, but they also understand it enough to come up with their own take on what it is that David O. Russell expects them to do and what the audience can then embrace as well. I think Russell is the type of director who’s not afraid to dig deeper, to let you in on why each character is driven by fear and insecurity. Those questions of ‘can I have the cake and eat it too’ or ‘are we in such deep a hole that there’s no way out but this’. Russell gets to the core of how each of these people come to be and they way they collide and the aftermath while combining it with sensible humor which to me is partially be helped by ‘70s setting that lends itself to its own clothing, dance, and hairstyle.
Christian Bale is the kind of actor who can go the distance. He’s willing to go there, wherever that is, for the role. As Irving, Bale has that aura about him, he looks funny and overweight with a hair that Donald Trump probably would be jealous of, but Bale’s Irving can have you sold on just about anything. Amy Adams plays Sydney with a level of insecurity that’s unbelievable. Syney hates who she was, wants to be what she’s not and she’ll play that card as long as she can. Bradley Cooper plays the cop that busts them and uses them to take down corrupt politicians, but even Cooper’s character, Richi is all shades of grey, just as Irving told Richi of how this world really works. All kinds of grey, which leads to Jeremy Renner who plays the mayor, you don’t know quite sure at first if he’s corrupt or his intention is genuine for the city, but the friendship he forges with Irving goes to show that grey areas again. It’s not good guy vs. bad guy, it was never as easy or as clear as that. And that’s what AMERICAN HUSTLE is offering you in terms of its themes. But I have to give mad credit to Jennifer Lawrence. Her performance as imbalanced, nagging wife is impeccable. This is another Oscar worthy performance by Lawrence who won Oscar in Russell’s other film, Silver Linings Playbook. What a remarkable young actress; effortless in every sense of the word.
There’s a bit of love triangle going on, there’s a bit of rage over one man, there’s a bit of ambition for top career, there’s a bit of trying to hold all things together while keeping your head above water, this is not a case of too many subplots, this is a case of David O. Russell showing you how complex a person can be in slightly over 2 hours runtime. Covering the basics, exploring each character fairly and thoroughly is the kind of results you can always guarantee a David Russell movie would always deliver.