Rating: 4 / 5
David O’Russell has been on a roll in recent years, with back-to-back winners 'The Fighter' and last year’s 'Silver Linings Playbook', both acclaimed films that are also popular and commercially successful, enabling Christian Bale ('The Fighter') to take home the Academy Award for Best Supporting Actor, and Jennifer Lawrence ('Silver Linings Playbook') for Best Actress.
For 'American Hustle', O’Russell seems to have merged the styles and genres of his earlier two films, and put up a dream ensemble cast that not only unites Bale and Lawrence, but also Bradley Cooper, Robert De Niro in a cameo, Amy Adams and Jeremy Renner.
His multi-layered narratives and idiosyncratic characters are set in the alluring world of hustlers and con artists, and as the film’s opening tagline states, some of the events depicted actually happened.
The hero of the story is Irving Rosenfeld, played by an almost unrecognisable Bale with toupee and pot belly, a seasoned con man who finds his dream partner in Sydney Prosser (Adams), a smart sexy former exotic dancer from New Mexico. She is capable of, say, pulling off a really convincing British accent as alter-ego "Lady Edith", to lure desperate unsuspecting men into taking loan scams with them.
When a rogue FBI agent Richie DiMaso (Cooper) catches up with the couple, they are forced to help him catch other fraudsters and grifters.
Things start to get out of control when Richie wants to use Irving’s expertise to entrap white-collar criminals – politicians, power brokers and big-time mafia gangsters.
Tension among the three escalate as Richie also has the hots for Sydney, testing her love and loyalty for Irving.
Throw in popular Mayor Carmine Polito (Renner) a newfound friend of Irving who is trying to do good for his community, and Irving’s unpredictable wife Rosalyn (Lawrence in a delicious supporting role) and the cards soon comes crashing down.
The film is based on true story of the scandalous FBI ABSCAM Operation, a sting operation in the 1970s that convicted several local officials, congressmen and a senator for fraud.
SHARP WRITING, GREAT STYLE
The show's designers did an excellent job defining the '70s look with authentic props, makeup, music and ultra-sexy clothes worn by the leading actresses.
And the film's greatest strength is the writing. The sharp dialogue and tight pacing make it very engaging. There is lots of adult humour, layers of irony and even sadness, as the audience is led to empathise with the flawed characters.
Amy Adams and Christian Bale play lovers and partners in crime
The audience is introduced to the enchanting world and methods of con artists, and are privy to their inner-most personal thoughts and insecurities through the character’s voiceovers.
Every single character is given moments to shine, even those with smaller supporting roles.
Coming in as a strong contender in the awards season with seven Golden Globe nominations, and already a critics favourite, 'American Hustle' might be the best chance yet for O’Russell to snag his first Oscar in either writing or directing, not forgetting possible acting accolades for his cast.