The movie about the elaborate con is pretty routine in Hollywood, but American Hustle elevates this type of film with not only layer upon layer of deception and double-crosses, but also commentary on the corruption that comes with power.
Set in 1978 and loosely based on real events, American Hustle follows an unlikely collusion between confidence men and the U.S. government.  Irvin Rosenfelt (Christian Bale, unrecognizable with his extra weight and giant comb-over) runs all sorts of scams, from forged art to fictitious lines of credit for desperate people.  His partner and lover is Sydney Prosser (Amy Adams), a meticulous con artist who uses a British accent to add a foreign element to their schemes.  Irvin's biggest weakness is his wife Rosalyn (Jennifer Lawrence), a foul-mouthed and unstable woman who uses her sex appeal and her son, who Irvin adopted, as leverage to keep him with her.
Irvin and Sydney wind up busted by FBI agent Richie DiMaso (Bradley Cooper), an ambitious agent.  He initially agrees to let the two go after they help him make four busts with their cons.  But Richie's hopes grow -- along with Irvin's fears -- as a con involving a rich sheik and millions of dollars gets the interest of New Jersey Mayor Carmine Polito (Jeremy Renner).  Polito wants to use the sheik's money to build up Atlantic City, and soon congressmen, senators, and even the mob are getting involved.  And as Irvin gets more and more nervous, no one is really sure who's using who. Is the tension between Irvin and Sydney real?  Is Sydney falling for Richie -- or just playing him?  And will Rosalyn make everything fall to pieces?

It's hard to think of any way that American Hustle could be any better.  The cast is stellar from top to bottom, and director David O. Russell brings out an intensity and realism from everyone that propels the film from start to finish.  While the movie is gripping and dramatic, there's also plenty of comedy, from the opening shot of Irvin putting together his elaborate comb-over to Louis C.K.'s role as Richie's boss whose concerns are ignored more and more at the prospect of big takedowns.  American Hustle is intelligent, entertaining, and a great example of what a movie can be.

Overall grade: A+
Reviewed by James Lynch

No comments: