Review: AMERICAN HUSTLE (2013) | Casey's Movie Mania | Movie Reviews, Features & Others

Tuesday, 31 December 2013

Review: AMERICAN HUSTLE (2013)

Review: AMERICAN HUSTLE (2013)
The acting ensemble is a joy to watch for, with a few lively sparks here and there in this entertaining but uneven crime drama.

In just a year after writer-director David O. Russell hits the jackpot with his winning quirky comedy SILVER LININGS PLAYBOOK, he's back with the highly-anticipated AMERICAN HUSTLE -- a movie which has already received tonnes of accolades from many critics and even hailed as one of the Oscar frontrunners come next year.

Loosely inspired from the FBI ABSCAM operation in the late '70s/early '80s (hence the opening title card that reads "Some of this actually happened"), AMERICAN HUSTLE first introduces Irving Rosenfeld (Christian Bale), a potbellied owner of New Jersey dry-cleaning stores who is also a slick con man. He meets Sydney Prosser (Amy Adams) at a party where they instantly fall for each other and ends up working together to con people's money with their elaborate scheme. They become so famous that one day they get caught red-handed by FBI agent Richie DiMaso (Bradley Cooper). Instead of putting Irving and Sydney to jail, Richie uses them to help him capture the New Jersey mayor Carmine Polito (Jeremy Renner) as well as other corrupted congressmen and mobsters for bribery.
I'm particular loved the way how David O. Russell incorporated various storytelling techniques such as flashbacks and voiceover narrations to introduce his four major characters -- Christian Bale's Irving Rosenfeld, Amy Adams' Sydney Prosser, Bradley Cooper's Richie DiMaso and Jeremy Renner's Carmine Polito -- in a lively Martin Scorsese-like filmmaking style. Technical-wise, AMERICAN HUSTLE -- from Linus Sandgren's fluid camerawork, excellent song choices (e.g. America's A Horse with No Name and Wings' Live and Let Die), and right down to the meticulous re-creation of the 1970s location settings, hairstyles and flamboyant wardrobes -- is top notch.

But it was the actors that shine here the most. Christian Bale, who previously collaborated with David O. Russell in 2010's THE FIGHTER (which won him his first Oscar for Best Supporting Actor), looks almost unrecognisable behind his sunglasses, large belly and combover. It's refreshing to watch Bale in a laidback and warm performance that doesn't require him to brood all the time like most of his usual roles in many other movies. Amy Adams is captivating who cleverly alternates her dual personalities -- one is Sydney, and another one is a British character named Lady Edith Greensly -- in such graceful manner. Bradley Cooper is energetic as FBI agent Richie DiMaso, while Jeremy Renner delivers a likeable performance as the New Jersey mayor Carmine Polito. Finally, the biggest scene stealer here is Jennifer Lawrence, who excels in her mesmerising and showy performance as Irving's estranged wife, Rosalyn.

The hilarious scene where Rosalyn quarrels with Irving over a broken microwave, and the tense moment where Rosalyn and Sydney come face to face together.
As a crime drama about deception and duplicity, it's kind of odd that David O. Russell and his screenwriter Eric Warren Singer doesn't deliver much in the subject matter, especially when everything is stripped down in mostly all-too-lightweight manner. The story feels lacklustre while the movie takes the time to find its proper footing after the wobbly first hour (apart from its lively opening scene).

While AMERICAN HUSTLE is hardly a great movie that I hoped for (which is definitely not in the same league with David O. Russell's previous two efforts, THE FIGHTER and SILVER LININGS PLAYBOOK), it remains a worthwhile entertainment best seen for its colourful cast.

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