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Movie Review: American Hustle

December 27, 2013

American Hustle PosterAmerican Hustle – An eOne Films Release

http://www.americanhustle-movie.com/site/

Release Date: December 20th, 2013

Rated 14A for coarse language and sexual content

Running time: 138 minutes

David O Russell (dir.)

David O Russell (writer)

Eric Warren Singer (writer)

Danny Elfman (music)

Christian Bale as Irving Rosenfeld

Bradley Cooper as Richie DiMaso

Amy Adams as Sydney Prosser

Jeremy Renner as Mayor Carmine Polito

Jennifer Lawrence as Rosalyn Rosenfeld

Louis C.K. as Stoddard Thorsen

Jack Huston as Pete Musane

Michael Peña as Paco Hernandez/Sheik Abdullah

American Hustle

©eOne Films.  All Rights Reserved.

Sydney Prosser (Amy Adams), Richie DiMaso (Bradley Cooper), Mayor Carmine Polito (Jeremy Renner), Irving Rosenfeld (Christian Bale) and Rosalyn Rosenfeld (Jennifer Lawrence) in American Hustle.

Our reviews below:

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American Hustle Review By John C.

**** (out of 4)

When we first meet Irving Rosenfeld (Christian Bale), he is rearranging his combover and gluing a hairpiece onto his head, as the iconic song “A Horse With No Name” plays in the background.  Right from this pitch perfect opening scene, I just knew that American Hustle was going to be among my favourite movies of the year.  Directed by the great David O. Russell, this is an electric and incredibly entertaining story of con men and double crossing, that is masterfully pulled off from start to finish.

Ever since he was young, smashing windows to help out his father’s glass business, Irving has made his money by swindling others.  Along with his partner Sydney Prosser (Amy Adams), who uses a British accent to help him set up a fake investment and loan business, the two hustlers are forced to work with determined FBI agent Richie DiMaso (Bradley Cooper).  The plan is to take down corrupt politicians who are working with the mafia, including the shady New Jersey Mayor Carmine Polito (Jeremy Renner).  But sexual tension between Sydney and Richie, as well as Irving’s loose cannon wife Rosalyn (Jennifer Lawrence), threatens to derail their elaborate con game.

The title card reads “some of this actually happened,” and that statement starts American Hustle on the perfect note.  Partially based on the Abscam scandal of the 1970s, the screenplay by David O. Russell and Eric Warren Singer is a brilliantly written piece of work filled with crackling dialogue and complex characters, all gracefully pulled together through the addictive editing.  Every scene is perfectly matched by an excellent soundtrack of classic songs, with several unforgettable sequences driven by the music, including memorable uses of Electric Light Orchestra’s “Long Black Road” and Elton John’s “Goodbye Yellow Brick Road.”  The cinematography further draws us into this meticulously crafted world, with the tracking shots and close ups recalling the best work of Martin Scorsese.

The main cast has been amalgamated from David O. Russell’s previous two triumphs The Fighter and Silver Linings Playbook, boasting some of the best actors of this generation.  Christian Bale is excellent, having undergone an impressive physical transformation for the role, and Amy Adams is his match, commanding the screen with confidence and plunging necklines.  Bradley Cooper is electric, and his Oscar-winning Silver Linings Playbook costar Jennifer Lawrence delivers a compulsively watchable performance, a livewire of unpredictable energy throughout several standout scenes.  Newcomers to the director like Jeremy Renner and even Louis C.K. are also quite strong.

There is something energizing about watching American Hustle, a brilliantly written con game that effortlessly evokes the spirit of the 1970s, leaving us breathless for the way that all of the pieces fall perfectly together.  From the compelling fractured narrative and duelling voiceover narrations, to the the striking cinematography and mesmerizing performances, this is one of the best and most entertaining movies of the year.

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American Hustle Review by Erin V.

**** (out of 4)

Directed by David O. Russell comes American Hustle.  Taking place in the ’70s, the film follows two con artists, Irving Rosenfield (Christian Bale) and his partner Syndey Prosser (Amy Adams).  When one of their dealings ends with them in trouble with the law, they are forced to work for FBI agent Richie DiMaso (Bradley Cooper) who tells them that if they can get him four people put away, the charges against them will be dropped.  And we are thrown into a world of double crossing, corrupt politicians, and even the mob.

American Hustle is a true ensemble cast movie – Bale, Adams, Cooper, as well as Jennifer Lawrence (as Irving’s wife) and Jeremy Renner (as the mayor of New Jersey), all give amazing performances.  Overall, the whole thing is extremely well put together – the script is sharp, funny, and the over two hour film just whips by.  The cinematography sets the tone and pace, as does the makeup and costuming work – this is a film that really captures the ’70s.  Also worth a mention is the soundtrack, which is ingeniously well put together and used (often with songs being played or sung within the scenes).  Sure to be a real awards season contender, American Hustle is well worth seeing.

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American Hustle Review by Nicole

**** (out of 4)

The tagline of American Hustle is “some of this actually happened.”  As a story about con artists, one never knows who is for real, and that is part of the fun.  Con artist pair Irving Rosenfeld (Christian Bale) and his mistress Sydney Prosser/Edith (Amy Adams) pull off a number of clever thefts.  When the two get caught, FBI agent Richie DiMaso (Bradley Cooper) discovers their talents and decides to use them to expose the crimes of corrupt New Jersey Mayor Carmine Polito (Jeremy Renner).  Meanwhile, Irving’s wife Rosalyn (Jennifer Lawrence) is getting quite annoyed that he is spending more time with his mistress than with his family.

Jennifer Lawrence steals every scene she’s in, with great comedy.  In fact, American Hustle is often comedic, as well as a great mystery throughout.  The film takes place in 1978, and everything from the great soundtrack and score, to costumes and hairstyles, to even the lighting, camerawork and general tone of the film, feel as if this movie could have been made in the 1970s.  The entire cast is great, the script and acting are really sharp, and the plot contains great con vs. con twists.  American Hustle is a lot of fun, ending the year on a high note.

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American Hustle Review by Maureen

**** (out of 4)

Good luck trying to out hustle a hustler.  These con artists are good at what they do and you need to pay attention to keep up with what’s really happening onscreen.  Director David O. Russell has done an amazing job in holding our attention with American Hustle.

Loosely based on the actual FBI sting operation from the late seventies, Abscam has overly eager FBI agent Richie DiMaso (Bradley Cooper) joining forces with veteran con artists Irving Rosenfeld (Christian Bale) and Sydney Prosser (Amy Adams) to take down Camden, New Jersey’s corrupt Mayor Carmine Polito (Jeremy Renner) and a host of other greedy congressman and senators.  The unlikely trio have an interesting chemistry together.  Both men are crazy over the beautiful Sydney who goes by the con name Lady Edith Greensly.  Their whole operation is constantly at risk of being turned upside down by Irving’s hilariously over the top wife Rosalyn, played by a wonderfully scene stealing Jennifer Lawrence.

Right from the opening scene where we see a shockingly ordinary looking Christian Bale painstakingly gluing on his toupee and styling his elaborate combover, we are drawn into the entertaining transformation each of the lead actors has made to make these 1970s characters completely believable and engaging.  Between the tacky ’70s wardrobe, the awful hairstyles (a perm on Bradley Cooper just looks wrong) and the perfect soundtrack, American Hustle keeps us solidly planted in 1978 New York.  The music is used brilliantly to move the story along.  There is one scene with Rosalyn dancing in her living room to “Live and Let Die” that is really something to watch.

What makes American Hustle so entertaining is the smartly written dialogue and the incredibly strong performances from the entire cast.  Christian Bale, Amy Adams and Bradley Cooper are all wonderful together.  However, it’s Jennifer Lawrence who’s the icing on the cake with her smaller but impeccably delivered role.  The rest of the supporting cast is also strong.  Jeremy Renner is completely believable as the corrupt mayor and Robert De Niro has a fun cameo appearance as mobster Victor Tellagio.

It’s hard to review American Hustle and get into much plot description.  There are several twists and turns that you simply wouldn’t want spoiled.  This is very entertaining as an adult con vs. con comedy.  Go for the ’70s vibe and awards worthy performances.  It’s no con to say you’ll be completely entertained.

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American Hustle Review by Tony

**** (out of 4)

American Hustle opens in 1978, to the recurring theme of Duke Ellington’s Jeep’s Blues, with the paunchy Irving Rosenfeld (Christian Bale) carefully preparing his combover for the business to come. Despite obvious conflict between Irving and accomplices Sydney Prosser (Amy Adams) and Richie DiMaso (Bradley Cooper), they attempt to bribe the popular Camden NJ mayor Carmine Polito (Jeremy Renner) with bogus Arab money in a sting operation, but Richie’s pushiness scares Polito off. The film then flashes back to the characters’ origins. Young Irving’s family glazier business picked up when he started throwing rocks through shop windows.

As a grownup, Irving began with a chain of dry cleaners, branching out into the counterfeit art market and as a broker of last resort for bad risks, offering lines of (nonexistent) $50K credit  for a non-refundable fee of $5K. With charm and ambition far exceeding her humble origins, Sydney is a perfect partner for Irving, posing (using a fake accent) as British bank scion Lady Edith Greensly, but she has to share Irving’s affections with the vulgar Rosalyn (Jennifer Lawrence) and her kid. Unfortunately, one of Irving and Edith’s marks is FBI agent DiMaso, who cuts them a deal to avoid prosecution if they agree to help sting four other crooks.

Having managed to regain Carmine’s confidence and friendship, Irving regrets having to take him down. However, Richie is determined to make a name for himself, going beyond the mayor after higher level politicians and the mob itself. Though his immediate superior (Louis C.K.) tries to rein him in, Richie goes over his head (Alessandro Nivola) to get what he needs, including a fake sheik (Michael Peña). Irving’s stress is compounded by a budding relationship between Sydney and Richie, the risk that the clueless Rosalyn flirting with a mobster (Jack Huston) may blow their covers, and intimidation from a perfectly cast (uncredited surprise) gang enforcer. If he wants to get out alive, Irving will need to pull off his best con ever.

Loosely based on the American Abscam scandal, American Hustle is the latest film from David O. Russell, who once again has allowed his brilliant ensemble cast to play to their strengths, drawing us often through improvisation into their characters. Though we share in their stresses, the Russell humour and wit are always there, supported by meticulous attention to the flamboyant 1970s period, with an outstanding Danny Elfman score incorporating tunes that perfectly fit the various situations.

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Consensus: Directed by David O. Russell with electric performances from an excellent cast including Christian Bale, Amy Adams, Bradley Cooper and Jennifer Lawrence, American Hustle is a brilliantly written and incredibly entertaining con game.  **** (Out of 4)

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