Whenever you listen to more than a few hours of disco, something bad is always bound to happen.
Irving Rosenfeld (Christian Bale) and Sydney Prosser (Amy Adams) run into one another, and it’s automatically love at first sight. Despite Irving having a wife (Jennifer Lawrence) and having a kid back at the house, Irving spends more than a few hours of his day completely, and utterly devoted to Sydney. Along with her, he also keeps his devotion to his successful scamming business, that’s been going pretty well for quite some time, all up until the moment they get nabbed by FBI agent Richie DiMaso (Bradley Cooper). Richie, seeing more than just a promotion in his hind-sights, decides to cut them a deal: Either go to jail for a really long time, or help him catch a series of stings, and get out of jail, Scott-free. Irving and Syndney obviously go for the latter plan, however, once they realize that the people they’re dealing with here are along the lines of New Jersey Mayor Carmine Polito (Jeremy Renner), and even worse, the mob. To add insult to injury, it becomes painfully clear that Sydney and Richie start to have a little thing for one another, which also leads to Irving to get a little bit jealous and begin to bring his wifey-poo around a bit more, despite her not being the most functional human being on the face of the planet.
Although this movie definitely seems to be based on the Abscam operation, everything about is partially fictional. That’s probably one of the smartest decisions David O. Russell ever makes here because he never, not for a second, has to worry about who he’s offending here, who he’s portraying in a bad-light, or even what facts he’s getting right, getting wrong, or totally missing the ball with. Instead, he just indulges himself with a story that could be told by anyone, however, given his talent as a director and the cast’s talent as, well, thespians, there’s plenty of fun to be had, as if Marty Scorsese himself could have sat behind the camera and did this himself.
But nope, while we do have a couple of weeks until The Wolf of Wall Street sees the light of day, we’re stuck with what seems to be a bit of a carbon-copy of his famed-style, and yet, it’s also its own baby in its own right. It just isn’t perfecto, you know?
Here’s the thing with O. Russell: The man loves his big ensembles, there is no question about that whatsoever. He so much indulges himself, just as much as the cast does and I think that’s where the bear of positives here lie. The cast is absolutely a treat to watch and practically the sole reasons why this movie works as well on the level it does. No offense to dear ol’ David, he’s great and all as the director and mastermind behind the works, but the cast he was able to assemble here, more than makes up for any pitfalls the script runs into (which trust me, I’ll get into for a second, just let me have me way with this delightful cast first).
Seeing as this is a movie that takes in place in the 70’s, you obviously have to expect everybody to be living it up with all of the frothy hair, nice and big jewelry, digs, cars, money, etc., which also means you have to expect everybody to be just a tad bit over-the-top. Heck, this was the decade in which disco roamed free all throughout the Nation state, so it only makes perfect sense that each and every cast member would get a chance to do a little playing around a bit, even if they are all characters in their own right. However, they’re entertaining characters to watch and that’s mainly due to the amazing cast at hand here. The most clear example of this is Jeremy Renner as Mayor Polito, who would seem like a totally crooked, immoral and unbelievably stupid guy to begin with in any movie, but somehow, the makes him a sympathetic character that doesn’t seem to know what he’s gotten himself into, nor does he really know the difference between right and wrong. He just wants to make people happy, look good for the cameras and treat his friends to a good time. The writing is in some way to credit for the handling of this character, but it’s also Renner’s likable-presence as well, that never goes away, even when the movie seems to highlight him in a very unsuitable-manner.
Same goes for Bradley Cooper who, if he’s lucky, may be looking at an Oscar nomination by the end of this year, as he deserves it. We’ve all seen Cooper do comedy before, and we know that he’s capable of making us laugh; we’ve all seen him play a bad guy before, and we know that he’s capable of making us not like him and his charming good-looks. Combine those two elements together, and you got Richie DiMaso, one of the most entertaining guys to watch in this whole movie (which is saying something), and for good reasons too. If I didn’t know any better, I would have thought that Cooper himself took a shot of Red Bull everyday before shooting, because this guy is constantly speaking a-mile-a-minute, saying things that aren’t always clear, always having a wise-crack handy and always making it seem like he’s got somewhere to be, something to do and someone to bother. Yet, he never seemed to annoy me. He was always a fun guy to watch, and honestly, a very honest guy that just wanted a promotion to come his way and a little bit of the spotlight as well. Yeah, he does get to be a bit creepy and brutal at times, but at the end of the day, you know that he means well and just wants what’s best for the rest of society, even if it does all come at a cost. Cooper is constantly on-fire here, stealing the show and making a name for himself, in every which way possible, which is why I feel like, if the world is perfect and does go round and round, that he may just run a good chance at getting a nomination this year. Going to be hard and all, but I think he’s got what it takes, boyishly good-looks and all.
That handsome bastard him.
And despite him being known as the type of guy who was practically in Cooper’s place, only three years ago, surprisingly, Bale really dials it down here as Irving Rosenfeld, giving us a guy you genuinely care for, despite being a proud con for all of these preceding years. While Bale definitely doesn’t go as nuts as he usually does in most movies, he’s still great here with his scrubby look, laid-back feel and overall sense of sadness that follows him throughout every scene, regardless of what his character is doing. Even in the scenes where he and Amy Adams are together, you can tell that he just wants to be with her badly, and their arc together really expands throughout the movie, keeping the emotional-glue firmly in tact. Sure, sometimes it does weave in and out-of-place at times, but it’s still what keeps this story moving and on a larger-level than just simply “catching cons”.
Speaking of Adams, the girl is as lovely, as sassy and as fiery as she’s ever been here as Sydney, the type of girl two guys like Irving and Richie would fall head-over-heels for. Adams has definitely flirted with playing up her “bad side” in the past, but never to the extent here in which you never quite know if she’s playing Richie, Irving, or even us for that matter. She’s a sneaky one, that Amy Adams and she’s perfect at fooling us, every step of the way. However, as good as she may be among the rest of these dudes, Jennifer Lawrence is definitely the one who gets the upper-hand as Irving’s accident-prone wife, who never seems to know when to shut up, nor does she ever know when to make the right moves either. At the beginning, she does play on the sidelines a bit, but once the story gets more complex and bigger, then she comes in and play a bigger role, and she’s an absolute blast to watch. She’s hilarious, nutty, wise enough to where you could actually see her playing a gal that’s about ten years older than her actually age, and even dumb enough to blurt out confidential info like Irving and Richie being in cahoots with the FBI and all, the same type of info that could get them all killed. J-Law (not to be confused with the other one J-Law) is definitely the celebrity it seems like nobody can stop watching and I see why: She’s genuinely talented, good-looking and a pretty cool gal, that just so happens to be a great actress.
But while these peeps are great and all, including many others that I couldn’t even begin to list and take up more of your time with, there’s still one person that needs to bring this altogether in order to make all of these different parts come together in a cohesive, but enjoyable way, and that’s David O. Russell. For the most part, O. Russell moves the story pretty quickly once the cons get going and it becomes abundantly clear that the dude doesn’t even have to do anything special with the camera to allow us to have a great time with these characters; he just lets them be themselves. Whenever he just places the camera solely in the middle of a conversation between a few, or maybe two characters, it’s literally the most fun you’ll have at the theaters this Holiday season, bar none. Everybody’s light, quick, punchy, funny and always entertaining, making you laugh the whole way through, even if you know that there’s so much you may be missing because of how fast everything’s moving.
However, O. Russell’s style isn’t necessarily a very inventive one, and in fact, more or less feels too much like a carbon-copy of Scorsese’s, rather than his own take on that said style. We get plenty of the dual-narrations, the swooping in-and-out of the camera, a hip, rockin’ soundtrack from the 70’s, and heck, even a supporting performance from a person who’s synonymous with Scorsese movies. Granted, the last two aspects can’t really be held against O. Russell because the dude’s obviously just working with what he’s got, but as for the other times, it felt like something I’ve already seen done a hundred times before, just with more over-the-top and wacky performances from the whole cast and crew.
Once again, I’ll say it: This is by no means a bad movie, it’s just a very good one, that could have really gone for great, had it not been what seems like another Scorsese look-alike. Sure, there are definitely problems with the script, and how it doesn’t quite know what it wants to be, at any given point in time, but by the same token, it still doesn’t matter considering everything’s moving at such a quick-pace, you don’t really have time to stop and think. You just sit-back, watch, and enjoy the ride. That’s what movies are all about, regardless of who’s in front of, or behind-the-camera. This coming from a two-bit movie critic, but you get the point.
Consensus: When done at its worst, it’s a not-so original take on a con story, done in a way that feels like a Scorsese flick; but when done at its best, American Hustle is most likely going to be the funnest time you will have at the movies for the rest of the year, showing you exactly what one can do when they have more than a few talented people delivering their script.
9 / 10 = Full Price!!