Friday, December 20, 2013

Review: American Hustle (David O. Russell, 2013)

David O. Russell’s second film to hit Australian screens over the past twelve months – following his masterful romantic comedy/drama Silver Linings Playbook - is American Hustle, a stylish, complex and genre defiant 70’s-set crime-caper with a wonderful ensemble cast. Endowed with a manic sense of pace – the characters talk fast, the camera is always active and conflicting tones co-exist within the same scene – Russell and his co-screenwriter Eric Warren Singer have successfully managed to wrangle this convoluted piece of history into a cohesive screenplay with an entertaining fictional twist. It is an impressive achievement that takes a little while to process and a second viewing, once we understand each of the players and where they end up, is perhaps essential.

It is Christian Bale’s Irving Rosenfeld, a brilliant con man, who brings the emotional core to this loaded film. Along with his partner and lover, Sydney Prosser (Amy Adams), Rosenfeld has built a successful foundation of financial scams and fake art dealings on top of a legitimate dry cleaning business. When a wildly ambitious and unpredictable FBI Agent Richie DiMaso (Bradley Cooper) nabs them, they are forced to help him take out corrupt Jersey politicians, and in extension, intimidating members of the mafia, by conning them into taking bribes. They don’t spend time in prison, and DiMaso makes a name for himself. Their plan comes to involve the Mayor of Camden, New Jersey, Carmine Polito (Jeremy Renner), who gets caught between friendship with Rosenfeld and the FBI ABSCAM scandal, and unexpectedly Rosenfeld’s wife, Rosalyn (Jennifer Lawrence).

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