An old 70’s Hollywood logo with a Seventies song “Jeep Blues” playing in the background, Opening statements stating “Some of this has actually happened” followed by Christian Bale doing the most interesting and complex comb over in film history are the first things we see in the movie American Hustle. An opening that is interesting on many levels that tells me instantly that American Hustle is going to be a unique film.
Directed by David O Russell, American Hustle is a movie that is a retelling of the real life Abscam scandal in the 1970’s but more so about the theme of reinvention, and the idea that everyone needs to con others and put on fake facades to trick others to survive. The movie is in the middle of being a character study, parody, and glorification of the 1970’s and the me-ism philosophy that people in the 1970’s followed. The movie manages to combine drama and comedy to create a story that is ambitious and messy but ultimately a well crafted story that manages to entertain and tell interesting things about how far people will go to achieve the American Dream.
The plot is basically about the Abscam scandal in the 1970’s and about con artists and how everyone in America, even people who are not criminals, are con artists. The story is about a con man, named Irving ( Christian Bale) who works with a woman named Sydney (Amy Adams) to scam people by selling fake art and giving people fake loans. Both of them are caught by FBI agent Richie Di Masso ( Bradley Cooper) who puts them into custody but makes them a deal that if they help him con corrupt politicians they will both be released from prison. They decide to take down a corrupt politician, named Carmine ( Jeremy Renner) who has a good heart but does corrupt things to support the people of New Jersey. They try to con him by getting a fake Arab Sheik to say that he is rich and trick Carmine in accepting fake bribes. In the background Irving has a young wife named Rosalyn (Jennifer Lawrence) who threatens to destroy Irving’s entire operation as well as Richie’s boss (Louis CK) who is against it all.
Now before I get this review underway I have to point out that I actually liked this movie and was surprised of how much I liked this movie. The reasons I point this out is because there seems to be a divided fan base debating on whether this movie is a masterpiece or whether it is one of the most overrated movies of all time. I happened to like this movie a lot because It reminded me of a movie similar to Goodfellas, and Pulp Fiction, where David O Russell takes some things that made those movies great and puts them in this movie, while adding his own style to the caper genre creating a sort mocking parody movie of the 1970’s but a complex drama with funny and dramatic moments, and complex and sympathetic characters usually not seen in the caper genre. David O Russel’s film is filled with sympathetic and raw performances as well as tight concise direction. However this movie is not perfect and you will probably be surprised with the things I don’t like about it but first lets look at the good stuff.
The best part about this movie is the performances. Christian Bale is my favorite film actor working today and he absolutely makes this movie and is my favorite performance playing a character that is complex but very likable. Christian Bale gained so much weight in this role and you cannot recognize Christian Bale at all. Irving is very relatable because of his heart in the movie but he has this intimidating air about him and wonderful subtlety about him that Christian Bale plays brilliantly. He definitely could be the best lead actor performance I have seen all year. Amy Adams is also one of my favorite actresses working today and she portrays one of the best and complicated characters in the movie where you never know what her intentions are throughout the movie, while still looking incredibly sexy throughout the movie developing a complex romance with Irving and Richie. Bradley Cooper plays one of the funniest characters in the movie playing a “fifteen year old in an adult body” who is an FBI agent. He has so much energy and ambition and wonderful chemistry with Christian Bale, Amy Adams and especially Louis CK’s character making some of the funniest parts in the movie due to their opposite personalities. He creates a character that seems like an unlikable character on paper due to his ambition and stupidity but Bradley Cooper manages to make me sympathize him due to his good intentions and funny behavior. Jeremy Renner does a brilliant job as being the heart of the movie due to him actually forming a friendship with Christian Bale and him having very good intentions to help New Jersey even when he is doing stuff illegally. Him not being nominated for an Oscar is beyond me especially considering that Jennifer Lawrence has gotten more praise than Jeremy Renner as well as more praise than anybody in this movie.
Yes my least favorite thing in the movie as well as least favorite performance in the movie is Jennifer Lawrence’s character. I was never on the Jennifer Lawrence love band wagon and though I just liked her in Silver Lining’s Playbook (she wasn’t my favorite thing about that movie) Jennifer Lawrence is horribly miscast and over acts and strains in her part as Rosalyn delivering an inconsistent accent and an annoying and one hit character that just acts crazy and cries and screams a lot. She delivers funny lines here and there and is good, but compared to the other characters I didn’t believe for a second that this was Rosalyn, I just saw Jennifer Lawrence. At times Jennifer Lawrence spoke a New York accent and some times she sounded like a college girl with a normal accent. The biggest flaw I have with Jennifer Lawrence is that she doesn’t take the time to immerse herself and study her roles. I think she is a good actress, nothing more and nothing less but I was not a fan of her in this movie.
Jennifer Lawrence’s character is actually one of the few things I didn’t like about this movie, but the other performances, direction by David O Russell, soundtrack and 1970’s setting are very good. The movie feels very talkative but always engaging because of the wonderful character interaction that feels very natural, and always fast paced. I get the feeling a lot of the dialogue in this movie was improvised and it is so fun to see all of the characters interact with each other because of this. David O Russell always makes it feel like I am watching these characters in real-time. The story may be hard to follow at times but the character interactions and wonderful acting and 70’s feeling makes this flaw not that bad. The movie is very grey, not black and white, with no bad guys or good guys and the fun thing about the movie is watching each characters subtle acting decisions and how something could give away their intentions on who they are conning. The film can be seen as a comedy, and trust me it is funny, however the movie is also a drama filled with compelling characters as well as sympathetic characters with great performance and good written dialogue. The story is not that good and if you are not a big fan of the story or understand it that much, the story will drag, but if you are a fan of compelling characters and pay more attention to the characters more so than the story, you will love this movie. Also being a lover of the 1970’s helps a lot too because this movie really paid tribute to the 1970’s. David O Russell really made a good movie that is messy filled with so many character types of the 1970’s and wants to study them. In the process he makes a movie with great performances and soundtrack but it is definitely messy on the plot side of things. But a good mess because the flaws are inseparable from its positives. With so much focus on the story the characters probably wouldn’t have the same effect as they had in the movie. The movie is fast and sloppy because it symbolizes the characters and the period of the 70’s. The tone and pacing fit the character interactions and theme of the movie very well. It is a con game where everyone is in for themselves and confused on who they are and what they want in life.
Objective score: 9.3 Subjective score:9.5
Christian Bale is fantastic, Bradley Cooper is fantastic, Amy Adams is fantastic, Jeremy Renner is very good. They are fun to watch but always seem to be in character the whole time. This is an acting movie, which means this movie is mostly about the characters and the performances, not the story.
This movie is so enjoyable to see. There is so much detail in every performance that it reminds me of a stage play and each character works off each other so well.
The soundtrack to this film is so good and memorable. It is up there with Goodfellas and Pulp Fiction, when it comes to a good soundtrack. The soundtrack is symbolic as well as very memorable going with many scenes perfectly.
I love how this movie embraces as well as mocks the 70’s and how the hair styles and characters match a certain stereotype of the 70’s.
I love the hair symbolism and music symbolism this movie has. Makes me want to re watch the movie and analyze the movie.
This movie is fun. Not as fun as The Wolf of Wall Street, but fun enough, there are more chuckles in this movie then laugh out loud moments and I am okay with that because I like subtlety.
A great cameo by one of the best actors in Hollywood.
David O Russel’s direction is fun, concise, and breaths giving you good character direction.
Unlike most other caper movies, this movie has strong female characters. I loved Amy Adams the best and she delivers one of the best and complex characters ever in a caper film who is not just a housewife usually seen in other caper movies.
There are many things in the film that remind many people of Goodfellas, Pulp Fiction , Boogy Nights, Casino and some people may call this ripping off, I find it homage. A quote Irving says describing the idea of ripping off ” This painting is fake, people believe what they want to believe, because the guy who made this was so good, that everybody thinks that it is real, so who is the master, the painter or the forger.” David O Russell, proves that he is a sort of con artist himself but nevertheless an artist. For David O Russell gives a homage to the caper genre movies in the past years.
Jennifer Lawrence’s character is not that good in my eyes but many people like her so take my opinion any way you want.
The plot is complicated.
The movie is messy.
The movie is a little long but doesn’t drag like Wolf of Wall Street.
The movie drags if you are watching the movie for the plot.
The movie is too overhyped and that makes people disappointed of this movie.
I give this film a nice recommendation for those who love good characters, character interaction, music that is good, great performances and the 1970’s. Next I am going to review a film that many people I know are talking about. An Oscar contender for best picture and a movie that most people say is going to be winning it. I think you know. 12 Years A Slave. I am K Dog, and have fun at the movies.