American Hustle

Movie Review #668

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Studio: Atlas Entertainment – Annapurna Pictures
Distributor: Columbia Pictures – Sony Pictures Releasing
Country: USA
Spoken Languages: English

Directed by David O. Russell.  Produced by Megan Ellison, Jonathan Gordon, Charles Roven, and Richard Suckle.  Written by Eric Warren Singer and David O. Russell.

Rated R by the MPAA – frequent profanity, infrequent sexual content, violence.  Runs 2 hours, 18 minutes.  Limited release in the USA on December 13, 2013.  Wide release in the USA on December 20, 2013.

Starring Christian Bale, Bradley Cooper, Amy Adams, Jeremy Renner, Jennifer Lawrence, Louis C.K., and Jack Huston.  Also starring Zachariah Supka, Bo Cleary, Greg Maxwell, Mickey O’Keefe, Erica McDermott, Frank Geraci, Melson Alford, and Melissa McMeekin.

Cinemaniac Reviews three and a half stars

“Hey Irving, I’m gonna have some fun.  Maybe it’ll be contagious.”
—Rosalind (Jennifer Lawrence)

Director David O. Russell has to thoroughly challenge himself to raise the bar higher than this.  His newest movie “American Hustle” is nothing less than a masterpiece.  We’re talking about a film that doesn’t have a boring moment.  The tale holds a tenacious grip on its audience, and its likability is off to the races before that tale even begins.  Most of the events in the movie come from the Abscam scandal, which occurred shortly after Watergate.  But we aren’t told this is “based on a true story.”  We’re told, ever so modestly, that “some of this actually happened.”

50% of “American Hustle” is equal parts inspired by “Casino”, “Ocean’s Eleven”, and “Jackie Brown”.  The other half is an exuberant period piece.  Kudos to those who rendered the makeup and costumes on our three lead performers—Christian Bale, Bradley Cooper, and Amy Adams.  Replace the faces of today with the faces of Robert Redford, Dustin Hoffman, Faye Dunaway, and this is a 70s movie.  The music is even better, with cues that awesomely complement the great camerawork.  And the music doesn’t just resemble the decade.  What we have here is the most transformative 70s soundtrack since “Dazed and Confused”.

The movie is dynamically acted by its ensemble cast, but the major standouts are Christian Bale and Jennifer Lawrence.  They dominate the script as much as its writers—Eric Singer and David O. Russell, the film’s own director.  This is his followup to “Silver Linings Playbook” with just as much humor and sentimentality.  Except “American Hustle” works in ways that “Playbook” didn’t, because we’re never the least bit concerned with guessing what’ll happen next.  The writing does come with its flaws, but only one I actually noticed.  The characters’ stories seem to appear at random in the beginning.  But, to reiterate, the whole thing has our attention.  Even the weaker points in the movie are formidable.

Analysis for awards season: David O. Russell’s two previous films have been big at the Oscars.  “The Fighter” won for Best Supporting Actor (Christian Bale) and Best Supporting Actress (Melissa Leo) and earned five other nominations, including Best Picture.  “Silver Linings Playbook” won for Best Actress (Jennifer Lawrence) and earned seven other nominations, including Best Picture.  I’m writing this post on Festivus (December 23rd), but I’m sure that by the time this post goes up, “American Hustle” will have earned at least seven nominations, including Best Picture.  I wouldn’t mind if it won, either, even if it’s the most likely are “Gravity” and “12 Years a Slave” (both which have undeniably been nominated).

Coming Reviews

Cat People
Insidious: Chapter 2
Kick-Ass 2
Love Actually
White Christmas
The Wolf of Wall Street
World War Z

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15 thoughts on “American Hustle

  1. If anything, the cast is the main reason to see this movie. Sure, there’s plenty of style and flair to go along with the fun, but everybody feels like they are really in-tuned to what they have to do here, and they don’t disappoint. Good review.

    • It’s really good. I’m desperate for Jennifer Lawrence to win the Supporting Actress Oscar, but she’s up against Lupita Nyong’o from 12 Years a Slave. Not the most memorable performance from that movie at all, for me at least, but it’s much overshadowed J-Law’s unfortunately.

      Though her Golden Globe was the only good Golden Globe there was. And it was probably randomized like the rest of them. How lucky she is.

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