After a fantastic 1-2 punch with The Fighter and Silver Linings Playbook, I think it is safe to say that David O. Russell has had a great period of a renewal in his career. And after his infamous tensions he had on set during his previous directorial efforts, that is definitely an accomplishment to be proud of. So now with Russell’s latest con dramedy American Hustle, he brings the forces of both his two previous films and concludes this pseudo-trilogy of the reinvention of his career.
Irving Rosenfield (Christian Bale) and Sydney Prosser (Amy Adams) are two successful con partners that thrive in their business during the 1970’s. They both share a love for eachother, Duke Ellington, and their desires for the American dream. Their worlds get turned upside down when they are forced by FBI Agent Richie DiMasso (Bradley Cooper) to take part in his program to bribe and pull the rug under numerous politicians – particularly Carmine Polito (Jeremy Renner), the good-hearted Mayor of Camden New Jersey. And as if everything can’t spiral even more out of control, Irving’s off-the-wall wife Rosalyn (Jennifer Lawrence) threatens to wreck the entire operation that may affect everyone involved in the worst ways possible.
As expected from his previous filmography, Russell is a true actor’s director. Having directed three of his performers to Oscar wins (and also having two of them in his ensemble), he proves here that he has a knack for not only pushing his actors miles beyond their limits, but also fleshing out even the most zany, outlandish characters in such a way that you can understand their intentions during these insane situations.
Thanks to Russell, this ensemble cast all reach their A+ game. Bale is absolutely unrecognizable as Irving as he effortlessly portrays this wild, yet charismatic conman. He also surprises with how well he can handle comedy right from the opening scene which will leave the audience in shock to see how Bruce Wayne would look if he let himself go. He also shares a madly irresistible chemistry with Adams who stuns in her wonderfully sexy performance. Bradley Cooper who has been on a string of mesmerizing performances as of late shines as the unpredictable Richie DiMasso to where he flawlessly holds himself down in a calm and collected manner in one scene to which the following scene soon brings him into his ultimate rage that delves into his character’s insanity. Renner’s portrayal as the ever-so likable Mayor Polito is also ranked among his best performances, and Lawrence just right after winning her Oscar in Russell’s previous film absolutely kills it especially during her scenes to which her tensions with Bale are so convincing dramatically that it also evokes uncomfortable laughter.
And wow, right from the use of the opening credits, this film just transports you into the glamorous-groove of the 70’s. The clothes, the sets, the hair, and of course, the music just immerses the audience into the hypnotic disco-era in Russell’s beautiful marriage of the excitement of Paul Thomas Anderson’s Boogie Nights and the gritty, suspenseful vibe of Martin Scorsese’s Goodfellas.
Russell reworked Eric Warren Singer’s previous script and definitely made it his own – and he has done so in an unapologetic manner. This movie screams David O. Russell and his style for his unpredictable, yet realistic characters. These people in retrospect are despicable – which you expect knowing it’s all about cons and scamming. But ultimately, these characters have valid reasons and even have plenty of good-intentions. These five main characters are all trying to survive their difficult lives and unfortunately they just have to reach that satisfaction by committing these unlawful acts. But that does not make them unlikable characters but instead makes them feel genuine. It’s ironic to say that due to the fact that they all reach their points of craziness they also manage to have that humanity within themselves that impels the audience to feel for them as they embrace them even with their scandalous natures.
Expect numerous Oscar nominations for this film, folks – and rightfully so. Peppered with an all-star ensemble that each commit to their A+ game, a director who truly knows how to bring the 70’s not only as a backdrop, but as a character itself, and a script that invigorates such memorable characters and impeccable dialogue alongside an already exciting story that takes numerous twists and turns throughout, American Hustle proves to be all-around a remarkable achievement. Definitely one of the year’s best and quite possibly the most entertaining as well. So hilarious. So sexy. So alive.
American Hustle earns a 4.5/5.