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American Hustle - Cinemaholic Movie Reviews
one person's obsessive addiction to film
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cinema_holic
American Hustle
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Directing: B+
Acting: A-
Writing: B+
Cinematography: B+
Editing: B



For a movie full of con artists, American Hustle is refreshingly straightforward about its own storytelling: "Some of this actually happened," the opening title card states. How much of it actually happened, as far as the average viewer is concerned, is immaterial. That any of it happened makes the movie more interesting.

The first third or so of the film is somewhat of a challenge to get into; it seems to take a while to get its footing. We get some back story for the central characters, Irving (Christian Bale) and Sydney (Amy Adams), how they met, and how they became a two-person team of con artists. Irving seems to be uncharacteristically vulnerable when he confides in Sydney what types of shady operations he has (laundry, selling "art"), and she's all over it. Only later in the film does it occur to Sydney that maybe she's been played just like everyone else in Irving's life. Or has she?

When Sydney gets busted by FBI agent Richie DiMasio (Bradley Cooper), he offers Irving a deal: help him make four busts, and they'll get immunity. The problem with Richie is he aims too high, and he's going for the much-loved mayor of Camden, New Jersey, Carmine Polito (Jeremy Renner). Much to the chagrin of his boss (a serviceable but distracting Louis C.K.), Richie sets up a sting operation that gets himself in way over his head. He runs into mafia connections. Robert DeNiro shows up -- for a brief scene that's honestly some of his most understated work in ages.

And then there's Irving's wife, Rosalyn (Jennifer Lawrence), who has raised passive aggressiveness to high art. Hers is a much smaller part than any of the principals, but she always seems to be the monkey wrench in everyone's plans, and Lawrence is perfectly cast in the part. It's pretty impressive she can play a jaded housewife and a oppressed teenager of the future in the same year.

Indeed, if there is any one reason to see American Hustle, it's the stupendous cast, elevating material that could otherwise have crashed and burned in other hands. Props must also be given to the custume designers and makeup artists, because these people really disappear into their roles -- even Amy Adams, even though she doesn't get as much in the way of accessories to obscure her true self. But she works those seventies hairdos and deep-V neck dresses for all they're worth. Christian Bale, Bradley Cooper and Jeremy Renner, for their part, all get particularly memorable hairdos of their own.

Richie's quest to get a bunch of huge busts essentially stops at a bunch of politicians, with a sort of line drawn in the sand by the mob. He's skating on the thin ice his boss keeps trying to tell him about from his ice fishing days in Michigan. Ultimately, he's trying to balance the achievement of busting politicians with the risk of getting killed by the mob. One scene involving a hired, fake Arab sheik (the guy is actually Mexican) facing a mobster nobody knew spoke Arabic is rather tense.

Overall, though, American Hustle is just a fun re-imagining of a bit of modern American history. As is to be expected by the title, all of the characters are hustling in one way or another; as Syndey says, "We all do what we gotta do to survive." Finding out who puts one over on who by the end is part of the fun, and director David O. Russell, who brought us last year's Silver Linings Playbooks, brings it all together succinctly. This is a movie that starts off a little slow but ends with the satisfaction of a great story smartly told.

Amy Adams and Christian Bale put one over on everyone in AMERICAN HUSTLE.</a>


Overall: B+
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Comments
tommy50702 From: tommy50702 Date: January 16th, 2015 05:17 am (UTC) (Link)
Worth watching. All the main characters were entertaining.
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