If opening scenes are trying to grab your attention, this one certainly succeeds as we see a clownishly attired Christian Bale orchestrate a really bad hairdo for something like 5 minutes. Equally as shocking is his physique as the formerly ripped Batman has put on 43 pounds of mostly paunch. The plot of this film is seemingly simple as Irving Rosenfeld is a small time business man and con-artist who teams up with a versatile and seductive Sydney Prosser. In spite of having a wife and adopted son, Irving is totally smitten with Sydney, but they both run afoul of the FBI when they are caught by Richie Dimaso in a small sting operation. In exchange for not being prosecuted, they are forced to work for Dimaso to entrap dirty politicians and even dirtier mobsters until things swing wildly out of control.
Director David O. Russell has done it again with this magnificent film. The writing and skillful use of the of stable of stars that he so successfully used in Silver Linings Playbook made this film more than just another contender. Playing off of the post Watergate period and loosely based on “some of this actually happened”, namely the Abscam stings, Russell makes us yearn for the disco ball with his garish time period costumes and a timely musical score.
The viewers of this film soon know that they are in for something quite special. Christian Bale, of course, is one of the premier actors of this century and turns in a stunning performance as the small time skimmer that may be a little smarter than he is given credit for. Throughout the movie, there is a constant ballet of duets between various characters as chemistry is developed and sometimes left smoldering. Sydney casts spells on both Irving and Richie, and sometimes it’s hard to tell who is conning whom as the interaction between the players builds to an almost impossible to imagine conclusion.
Bradley Cooper gives what may be the best performance of his career as an over-zealous FBI agent who is manically focused on the pursuit of catching crooked politicians. The interaction between Richie and his ultra-conservative boss is hilariously done, with the ice fishing story played out with maximum effectiveness. His zeal to make the big Abscam sting is only matched by his animal magnetism towards Sydney which culminates in a steamy bathroom scene in a local disco.
Equally impressive was the acting of Jeremy Renner as Mayor Politio, caught in the middle of trying to serve his constituency and the harsh reality of what it would take to make his dreams come true. Christian Bale as Irving shows his stunning con-man skills as he almost instantly earns the respect and trust from Mayor Polito. Oh, and as outrageous as Irving’s hair was, Mayor Polito won the prize for the ‘doo of the night, it was magnificent as he looked like a cross between Donald Trump and Elvis.
Jennifer Lawrence is fantastic as Rosalyn Rosenfeld, who is a blond bombshell of a monkey wrench for others, but is the ultimate survivor herself. “No one can fuck this up but your wife” is a prophetic quote that comes back to haunt as the sexy vixen has already caught the romantic interest of mobster Pete Musan and utters three of those acronym letters that are guaranteed to precipitate almost instantaneous bloodshed. If we have learned anything in watching Gangster or Mob movies it is the letters IRS or FBI, when referring to a trusted individual, who turns out to be a traitor or a mole, will get someone whacked in a hurry ( Remember Adrianna in the Sopranos?). Like her nail polish, Rosalyn is both delicious and rotten and did not hesitate to throw her estranged husband beneath an entire fleet of mob driven busses. She was fearless and reckless and nothing personified her attitude more than when she instantly destroyed the “science oven” or when she was belting out “Live and Let Die” while Irving was getting the mob equivalent of a canvas facial.
Rosalyn was easily the most calculated and Ruthless character in this movie, and that is saying something considering the uncredited appearance by Robert DiNiro. He was so devastatingly chilling in the meeting at the club that you just knew something was going to happen, but it may not be what you expect, so just go see the movie.
This is a great film, splendidly acted and highly entertaining. Where it fell a little short may have been on the delivery, as you did not know quite what to think at times as the film navigated the tight-rope between almost manic tension and somewhat of a black comedy. Many have compared to Goodfellas, but this is an entirely different type of movie, sans Joe Pesci for one thing. It was a tad bit long, and a little scruffy around the edges, but that just added to its charm. “American Hustle” may or may not be Best Picture material, but it is an extremely watchable film that exploits the skills of a stellar cast.
- “You know that I would never say anything bad about your father in front of you, but your father is a sick son of a bitch.” -Rosalyn
- “Thank god for me” -Rosalyn
- “This whole thing is racist, completely racist. Abscam? Arab-Scam?” -Paco Hernandez
- “So what do you have to worry about, sheik, you’re Mexican” -Irving
- “You’re nothing to me until you’re Everything” -Sydney