stle is the best movie to come out of 2013, but it is for damned sure the most fun one to have made it to the big screen. Wow, what a fun ride that was. I am going to spend the next few hundred words or so just completely gushing about this movie with no pretense of objectivity or any other journalistic credos so read on at your own risk if you will. I always get a little nervous going into a movie that has received so much critical acclaim, as sometimes such acclaim only serves to raise the expectations of a movie that is merely good so that it has to come off as truly great or else it will turn out to be a disappointment. I am happy to report that was not the case here. I have watched American Hustle twice now, once alone, and once with my wife and it’s just so infectiously fun and utterly re-watchable that I anticipate I will be enjoying it just as much in a decade from now as I did the first time I sat down to see it. Safe to say, my expectations while extremely high going in, were more than lived up to.
The plot of the movie is based very loosely on the Abscam operation of the late 1970s in which several senators as well as a prominent New Jersey mayor were taken down in a vast sting operation designed to catch them red handed accepting bribes from a mysterious Arab Sheik. In this movie, that entire operation is put into action when the young FBI agent Richie DiMaso (Bradley Cooper) first arrests, and then forces the veteran confidence team of Irving Rosenfield (Christian Bale) and Sydney Prosser (Amy Adams) to assist him in setting up several high profile scams for him to use to arrest several big time mobsters and politicians. American Hustle is not so much concerned with telling that story as it is with just presenting us with flashy characters and crazy circumstances. Some of the negative critics of this movie have noted that fact as a detractor against this movie. They say this movie is all style over substance, and to that I would most definitely agree. In this case though, that fact does not really detract from the overall aesthetic value of the movie for me. Anyone watching American Hustle will figure out this is going to be a pure exercise in style and pizzazz within the first few minutes, but when you have such a deep and vast amount of style to spare, sometimes, as is the case here, that proves to be more than enough.
Here is a movie with such a confidant hand at the wheel, and with so much coolness to spare with its characters, that at the end of the movie, I found that I did not really care that the story was not a better developed part of the experience. There was just enough of a skeleton of story here to give these wonderful characters something to do while being waltzed across the screen for two hours to a cavalcade of great period music. That music, I might add is so prevalent here that is almost tantamount to being another character in the movie. Everyone from Tom Jones, to Elton John, along with ELO, Wings, Donna Summer, and the Bee Gee’s lend their talent to this film. The soundtrack to this movie is as much as a masterpiece of style and excess as the movie.
American Hustle is advertised as a comedy, although it flows like a drama. What makes this movie funny in parts, aside from the out of date (but still very fashionable) clothing is the eccentric personalities of the main characters here. Jennifer Lawrence’s character, who is the cheated upon wife of Christian Bale’s character, is a tour de force of drunken, oblivious, whorishness. Her character’s idiosyncrasies provide many of the biggest laughs of the movie. Christian Bale is a hoot as a pot bellied hair piece sporting con man. His performance here reminded me very much of a young Robert Duvall. Bradley Cooper brings that same manic energy he had in Silver Linings Playbook, but with a little more of a dangerous and demented edge. Amy Adams has some of the best opportunities to showcase her acting skills in this movie, and also, along with Lawrence, looks absolutely ravishingly beautiful in this picture. Their pictures on the poster should be enough to sell numerous tickets. Adams shares great romantic chemistry with both Bale and Cooper here.
Along with the big four star actors you also have Louis CK playing against type as a dim witted FBI boss who gets continually outwitted by Cooper’s character. Jack Huston, a favorite of mine from Boardwalk Empire gets a small role as a mobster here. Always good to see him popping up in stuff. There’s tons of other great cameos and performances here. Jeremy Renner plays Carmine Polito, a popular young Mayor with a bright future ahead of (or so he thought) who, while not above corruption is shown to be someone who is simply working with the system he was given and trying his best to actually do some good with his power. Renner will probably get lost in the shuffle of praise here as Bale and Cooper both soak in the well deserved awards here but Renner’s character is just as crucial to this story as theirs is, and his performance is no less outstanding.
The original title of this script was American Bullshit… And at one point in the movie Amy Adams character tearfully breaks down and says to Christian Bale that their relationship is nothing but bullshit, and that he is also bullshit as well. Here’s one thing that’s not BS though; American Hustle was without question, my favorite movie of 2013. Another reviewer says this movie “Out Scorseses Scorsese”… I have not been able to see Martin’s new movie Wolf of Wall Street, although I intend to, so I cannot weigh in on that debate, but this movie does owe a lot stylistically to movies such as Mean Streets, Goodfellas, and Casino. From the wall to wall period music, to the great tracking shots that seemingly go on forever and all the other great little scenes here ( I absolutely loved the scene with Adams and Bale standing inside the spinning clothes rack), David O. Russell has produced a pure feast for the eyes. With this movie, he has cemented his spot on my list of ‘Can’t Miss’ directors. Everyone in this movie appears to be having the time of their lives, and it all just luxuriates there on the screen, turning American Hustle into the most entertaining romp to hit American cinemas in many, many years.
American Hustle gets a four out of five: GREAT.