American Hustle

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In the six-year absence that followed 2004’s delirious ‘I Heart Huckabees’, David O Russell seemingly acquired a taste for studio filmmaking – but that’s not quite the same as going mainstream. ‘The Fighter’ and ‘Silver Linings Playbook’ played as exciting experiments to see just how much of Russell’s clattering, chaotic creative sensibility could survive the Hollywood formulae of the boxing movie and romcom, respectively. A lot, it turns out, and ‘American Hustle,’ his whirling, wilful take on the con caper, is no different; with much of its sensational ensemble drawn from Russell’s two previous films, it’s a loose trilogy-capper.

‘Loose’ is the operative word throughout. ‘Some of this actually happened,’ quips an introductory title card, as the film launches into a fictionalised, digressive account of the FBI’s notorious Abscam sting of the late 1970s. The plot, in which Christian Bale’s dopey New Jersey dry-cleaner moonlighting as an art forger Irving Rosenfeld is coerced by sleazy federal agent Richie DiMaso (a poodle-permed Bradley Cooper) into a plot to bring down several high-ranking politicians, is certainly knotty enough.

But ultimately story is secondary to Russell’s delicious detailing of character and milieu. A brilliant, wordless opening scene, in which Bale applies a vole-like toupee to his bald pate with heartbreaking care, sets the tone for a film as much about personal disguises as professional ones. 

It’s also a love story, oddly affecting in its cold-heartedness, between two falsely confident tricksters: Rosenfeld is alternately wooed and wound up by slippery Sydney (a fierce Amy Adams), as his garish Jersey-girl wife Rosalyn (Jennifer Lawrence) watches from the sidelines. Wounded but powerfully deranged, belting out ‘Live and Let Die’ in her literally gilded suburban cage, Lawrence is entirely extraordinary here, improving on the performance that won her an Oscar for Russell’s last film. Long may this collaboration continue: in her, he’s found the ideal firestarter for his brand of lively, fraying human comedy.

Release details

Release date: Wednesday January 1 2014
Duration: 129 mins

Cast and crew

Director: David O Russell
Screenwriter: Eric Warren Singer, David O Russell
Cast: Jennifer Lawrence
Christian Bale
Amy Adams
Bradley Cooper
Jeremy Renner

Average User Rating

3.6 / 5

Rating Breakdown

  • 5 star:12
  • 4 star:2
  • 3 star:4
  • 2 star:1
  • 1 star:5
LiveReviews|24
2 people listening
Roger R

The biggest hustle is how they tell you this is a oscar winner and get you to buy a ticket and sit through 2hrs of utter mince about bugger all ,,,, bale should have taken the millions and done another batman cause this movie is just full of jokers and as funny as a kick in the stones

villardi

Really enjoyable and quirky film, fabulous cast and superb writing. I think it helps if you were at least a teenager in the 70's for the context of the movie and it's excellent soundtrack, Steely Dan and Todd Rundgren yeees! The characters probably just fascinate more than the plot and all five leads are wonderful, especially Bale in my opinion. And for the first time in a long time Robert De Niro in his small but important role was actually scary.

Pip

Not quite sure what to make of this film. Not quite a slick hustle, not quite a black comedy, not quite a crime caper. Full of period detail, but the pacing is off. Jennifer Lawrence steals every scene she's in.

nagaraja

fantastic film , really enjoyed dont understand how anyone found it boring but thats taste for you

nagaraja

fantastic film , really enjoyed dont understand how anyone found it boring but thats taste for you

MikeT

Possibly the most stylish film I've seen in a while, and by that I mean if you're of a certain age and remember the 70's well, you'll love this film - every detail is captured, and backed with an excellent 70's soundtrack. The story, though clever, is sometimes a little confusing, and you just need to accept from the outset that the hustlers are hustling someone, who's hustling someone, and probably nothing's as it seems. There's an excellent vein of black humour running through the film, as well as quite a few chuckle-worthy moments. Amy Adams, not surprisingly, is excellent, as is Christian Bale, though I don't think the film's good enough for them to walk away with Oscars this year. Long, but worth seeing.

Edward

Some great scenes, performances, music, production design etc. but overall something was missing.

ozlem ozdemir

i really enjoyed, with costumes and music can feel like something out yourself back in time. performance of the players was unbelievable and story was very impressive.

ozlem ozdemir

i really enjoyed, with costumes and music can feel like something out yourself back in time. performance of the players was unbelievable and story was very impressive.

critique

Distinctive entertainment boasting some memorable scenes. Bale is excellent, Amy Adams fantastically sexy and de Niro turns in his best little role in years. Three and a half stars. Recommended.

Paul

140 long long minutes of mediocre improvisation by big name stars that just didn't end up cropped by a mercy edit, so take your smartphone, a pillow or the biggest bucket of popcorn you can buy to pass the hours. But It's the run-up to The Oscars now so the usual names are dressing up in period costume and acting their hearts out in the hope of a nomination. We've all seen this hustle story many times before, everything is clearly sign posted, no surpises and it's just a very big budget film. I'll laugh in my cocoa if Robert Redford gets a nomination instead of this Playbook Yawn.

Juan Carlos

A very good film. You must go see. Probably the best of the three recent Russell films but I fear it won't win many awards. It will get plenty of nominations but I fear that apart from the screenplay it won't win any. Which is a shame.

Juan Carlos

A very good film. You must go see. Probably the best of the three recent Russell films but I fear it won't win many awards. It will get plenty of nominations but I fear that apart from the screenplay it won't win any. Which is a shame.

Jessica

It's a ridiculous movie with overacted performances where the story is not well told. This is moment to stop the hysterical acclaim to one of overrated directors of our time and overrated actresses like jennifer lawrence.