Movie Review: American Hustle

You get an education. You get a job. You climb the corporate ladder and you get the American dream. Ah, but there is greed. You want it; you want it all and you want it right now. You look for the shortcut, the quick fix, the easy way to the brass ring. There's a sucker born every minute and why shouldn't you take advantage of their gullibility to help you climb to the top?

This is the scudzy side of life. Oh there may be nice clothes, fancy restaurants, and money to burn but there is something so very tawdry about the proceedings. We are being dishonest. Not your robbing a bank type of dishonest, but the carnival barker, all sizzle and no steak shyster who cons you into the spider's web before you figure out it's only smoke and mirrors and he can't deliver the goods. You want the American dream so badly; you don't care how you get it.

This is a great film. It is funny, sad, engaging, and in the end, you shake your head and think to yourself, "Are these people stupid?" Too much risk, too little reward. The story is based on the Abscam operation conducted in the 1970s and 1980s by the FBI to entrap corrupt government officials. The movie starts with a black screen and this amusing line of text: "Some of this actually happened." It's the height of the disco era and we are introduced to a cast of characters that could be us imitating the glitz and glamour of the BeeGees. Oh God, did we really dress like that? Did we really think we were cool?

Christian Bale as Irving Rosenfeld is our first lunatic character. Right off the bat, you feel the ickiness of this paunchy, comb-over doofus with delusions of grandeur. Geesh, how much weight did he put on to develop such a gut? Method acting? Ah, can't you fake this? Bale doesn't just act greasy; he looks greasy. Ugh.

Irving, our dry cleaner cum loan scammer cum art forgery dealer, meets the love of his life stripper Sidney Prossier (Amy Adams). All good except for one complication: Irving has a slightly nuts wife Rosalyn Rosenfeld (Jennifer Lawrence). While Irving and Sidney set out to take over (read: scam) the world, Irving lives a double life as a respectable father to Rosalyn's son. I say respectable with a touch of surprise as it turns out Irving officially adopted the boy and really cares about him. Will wonders never cease?

The story kicks into high gear or crazy gear when Irving and Sidney get busted by FBI agent Richie DiMaso (Bradley Cooper). Instead of carting the two of them off to the hooscow, Richie gives them a deal: walk away if they teach him the scamming racket and help him catch some really big fish. From here, the bunch of them get in way, way over their heads. Let the merriment begin!

As a heads up, Jeremy Renner has an excellent part as Mayor Carmine Polito, the first big fish targeted by the overly zealous Richie and the comedian Louis C.K. does a good job as Richie's boss. Watch out for the climatic set-up of the big sting. In an uncredited appearance, Robert De Niro plays a mob boss from Florida. His screen time may be limited, but his presence is felt.

Daniel O. Russell
This director has a bit of a track record. As a director he has to his name "Spanking the Monkey (1994), "Three Kings" (1999), "I ♥ Huckabees" (2004), "The Fighter" (2010), and "Silver Lining Playbook" (2012). As a writer, he's done "Spanking the Monkey (1994), "Three Kings" (1999), "I ♥ Huckabees" (2004) , and "Silver Lining Playbook" (2012). Note that Silver Lining Playbook also starred Bradley Cooper and Jennifer Lawrence with Robert De Niro. Small world.

Final Word
This is a great movie with great characters. They're all quirky; they all have their foibles, but isn't that what captures our attention? There but for the grace of God go I. It's all good fun and well worth the trip to the theatre this holiday season even if the popcorn costs a fortune.

References

Rotten Tomatoes: American Hustle: 94%
Riotously funny and impeccably cast, American Hustle compensates for its flaws with unbridled energy and some of David O. Russell's most irrepressibly vibrant direction.

Wikipedia: American Hustle
American Hustle is an American crime comedy-drama film directed by David O. Russell, from a screenplay written by Eric Warren Singer and Russell based on the FBI ABSCAM operation of the late 1970s and early 1980s. It is scheduled to have a wide release on December 20, 2013 (limited release December 13) by Columbia Pictures. It was filmed in Boston and Worcester, Massachusetts, and New York City, United States.

Wikipedia: Abscam
Abscam (sometimes ABSCAM) was a United States Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) sting operation run from the FBI's Hauppauge, Long Island, office in the late 1970s and early 1980s. The operation initially targeted trafficking in stolen property but was converted to a public corruption investigation. "Abscam" was the FBI codename for the operation. The investigation ultimately led to the conviction of a United States senator, six members of the House of Representatives, one member of the New Jersey State Senate, members of the Philadelphia City Council, and an inspector for the Immigration and Naturalization Service.

my blog: Movie Review: Silver Lining Playbook – Dec 28/2012
Written and directed by David O. Russell; Staring Bradley Cooper, Jennifer Lawrence, Robert De Niro, and Chris Tucker

 
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