American Hustle – Review

8 Jan

From the first time I saw the trailer for American Hustle, I was more than ready to see it. Now that it has been nominated for 7 Golden Globes, I really had to kick myself in the ass to get to the theater and see it. Combine that with the fact that it’s directed by David O. Russell, whose films The Fighter and Three Kings I really enjoyed. This is a very grand movie where a lot of things happen that’s being performed by a group of very talented people. That being said, American Hustle is a great movie with only Russell’s pretentious vision and bloated run time bringing it down.

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Irving Rosenfeld (Christian Bale) and Sydney Prosser (Amy Adams) are two con artists who have made a killing over the course of a few years in many different sorts of cons. It all seems to come crashing down when they are busted by the over enthusiastic FBI Agent Richie Di Maso (Bradley Cooper). Richie decides to let them off the hook if they can help him bust a group of senators and congressmen, including the mayor of Camden, Carmine Polito (Jeremy Renner). As the scams begin to pile up to a degree where Irving can’t even keep track of them all, relationships in the group begin to flare, and Irving’s wife Rosalyn (Jennifer Lawrence) decides to stick her nose into the whole thing which could mean causing the whole plan to come crashing down.

This movie is a lot of things, and that’s what I think part of the draw is. I went into it expecting mostly a comedy, but much like Three Kings, there are some very poignant dramatic moments amongst the sea of hilarity. It’s pretty refreshing to see a movie balance comedy and drama so well without one overshadowing the other. It’s a bold storyline to take on, and while it is mostly successful, there are some problems. The biggest one is the movie’s length. The first act and the second act move along just fine, but the beginning of the third act not only slows down, but adds in a bunch of scenes that could have been cut or trimmed. Up until that point, the movie moves so fast that it feels like I ran into a brick wall.

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I can’t talk about American Hustle without praising the acting. Christian Bale, once again, went through a major physical change for his role by gaining forty pounds. He’s also just super into character and plays a role that is different than the brooding parts he usually plays. Jennifer Lawrence is hilarious as Rosalyn, although some of the scenes that could have been cut involve her character which is not her fault. Jeremy Renner gives the best performance of his career. The only person who I felt was the weak link was Amy Adams, who didn’t really have the energy of her costars. I saved the best for last. Bradley Cooper gives an absolutely hysterical, pitch perfect performance in what I would say is worthy of an Academy Award nomination for supporting actor. He steals the show.

This is a really great movie to look at to. The costume design is especially great at capturing some of the good parts and not so good parts of style in the late 70s. Going right along with the costumes is the set design that looks like it was pulled right out of the time period, and if you were to watch American Hustle alongside something from the 1970s, I don’t think you would find much a difference. While I’m saying what I like about the look of the movie, I should mention the camera work. It looks really great and moves very fluidly with the energy that the characters have, but I feel like David O. Russell just really thinks he is the greatest thing on planet earth and that translates to the film. He does things with the camera that are just too much, and someone should let him know that moderation is better.

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American Hustle definitely deserves all the award recognition and critical praise that it is receiving. It is an excellent movie that is mildly bogged down by it’s director’s pretentious vision. All of the performers and set/costume designers went above and beyond in making this movies one of the highlights of the 2013 year in movies. If 20 minutes were trimmed off this movie, it would have been perfect. As it stands, it’s a little bit too bloated, but that didn’t stop me from loving this movie and wanting to see it again right when it was over.

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