Title: American Hustle (2013)
Director: David O. Russell
Cast: Christian Bale, Jennifer Lawrence, Jeremy Renner, Bradley Cooper, Amy Adams, Robert DeNiro
It seems that greed is America’s new favorite theme; in the tail end of 2013 three films have been released dealing with this theme. I guess Hollywood has it in their minds that bad economy will make people desperate enough to plan scams and get rich quick schemes, so Hollywood has taken upon themselves to play the role of our collective conscience, reminding those desperate individuals out there the results of letting greed control our lives. The three movies I’m talking about are The Wolf of Wall Street (2013), The Counselor (2013) and now American Hustle (2013). All three of these movies depict desperate people making sneaky deals, conning people, stealing, doing all sorts of illegal things in order to get the proverbial cash. What makes American Hustle different from the other two films is that it takes place in the flashy 70’s.
Like The Wolf of Wall Street, American Hustle is also based on real life events; hence the movie starting out with a title card that reads “some of these things actually happened”; which at the same time lets us know that the story is not entirely true and that artistic liberties were taken with the story. But basically, this is the story of a con artist who ends up working with the feds in order to capture a bunch of corrupt politicians. That’s the jist of it, the plot isn’t all that complex; what moves the story are the complications that arise, and the crazy characters that inhabit the film, this is one of those films in which the over the top performances take center stage.
First off we have Christian Bale playing Irving Rosenfeld, the master con artist. Now, you’ve probably heard the stories about how in previous films, Christian Bale has transformed his physique in order to play characters that (for whatever the reason) look extremely skinny or sick, malnourished if you will. For example, for The Machinist (2004) Bale became a walking skeleton in order to play a sleep deprived factory worker, how he looks in that film is truly shocking. For Werner Herzog’s Rescue Dawn (2006) he lost weight yet again for a scene which required him to look like a food deprived prisoner of war; and in David O Russell’s The Fighter (2010) again he lost a lot of weight in order to play a junkie. The thing with his character in American Hustle is that it’s a complete turnaround of what he’d done in those films, on American Hustle he actually gained 40 pounds in order to look like this dude who simply doesn’t care about appearances. You should see the beer belly on this guy! It’s kind of hard to believe he is the same guy who played Batman a couple of years ago. DeNiro himself didn’t recognize Bale when they met on set! They had to be re-introduced! So anyways, Bale plays a character that’s so sure of himself that he doesn’t care what you think of him, you simply have to accept him that way. So anyhow, Bale’s transformation for this film is astounding yet again. Gotta give it to Bale, he is committed to his roles.
Then we have Jennifer Lawrence whose career is literally on fire. Here she comes hot off her Oscar win for Silver Lining Playbook (2012) and her commercial success with The Hunger Games movies and delivers the most entertaining of all the characters in American Hustle, on this film she is quite literally a show stealer! She plays Rosalyn Rosenfeld, wife to Christian Bale’s con artist; basically she’s this trashy New Jersey housewife who chain smokes and dances to The Beatles “Live and Let Die” as she does her house cleaning. Her New Jersey accent is thick, and she’s loud and in your face, loved her performance. She’s already won a Golden Globe for it, who knows; maybe she’ll get another Oscar? Then there’s Bradley Cooper playing this crazed cop hot on the tail of the dirty politicians, his sole purpose is to make a name for himself, he looks hilarious with those curls. Actually, everybody here looks hilarious; in fact, it feels as if every actor’s sole job was to make themselves look as imperfect and eccentric as possible. Bale looks like a slob, Cooper looks funny with the curls, Lawrence looks trashy and Amy Adams…well, she’s just over the top sexy on this movie, showing so much cleavage it’s not even funny, but of course that’s not all there is to her character. I have to admit, Amy Adams is growing on me as an actress, here she plays a focused, icy cold lady. So expect all actors to have these crazy over the top looks, they feel almost like parodies of 70’s style and fashion. But I guess that was the idea with this movie, to go as over the top as possible.
This film reunites director David O Russell with Jennifer Lawrence, Bradley Cooper and Robert DeNiro, all of whom worked together on Russell’s Silver Linings Playbook (2012); it really is a joy to watch all these talented actors together on the screen, at least on the acting department you know you’re not gonna get short changed. Speaking of DeNiro playing a gangster, I couldn’t help and think of Martin Scorsese while watching this movie; it feels like a homage to Scorsese movies. It has Deniro, gangsters and desperate hustlers, I couldn’t help myself. Still, when compared with The Wolf of Wall Street and The Counselor, I’d say that The Wolf of Wall Street comes out on top, simply because it’s the fastest paced and bat shit insane of the three. American Hustle, in comparison seems tame; this is not to say it isn’t a good film or a funny one, it’s just slower than Scorsese’s The Wolf of Wall Street which to me felt like a movie high on all the cocaine it portrays. Still, American Hustle has an amazing cast, entertaining characters and the whole 70’s vibe going for it, which still makes it a worthwhile ride. David O. Russell, the director of this film has said that the emphasis on his films is not plot, but characters and there’s no better example than American Hustle. I have to admit it wasn’t as memorable as I was expecting, but the cast and performances elevate the film and makes it entertaining enough to make it one of the best of the year.
Rating: 4 out of 5