Keep Everyone Guessing – A review of American Hustle

Christian Bale and Amy Adams play a pair of con artists who've been coerced into working with the FBI by an agent played by Bradley Cooper.
Christian Bale and Amy Adams play a pair of con artists who've been coerced into working with the FBI by an agent played by Bradley Cooper.

Title: American Hustle

Production Company: Columbia Pictures

Run Time: 138 minutes

Rated: R

Director: David O. Russell

Stars: Christian Bale, Bradley Cooper, Amy Adams, Jennifer Lawrence, Jeremy Renner

5 stars for American Hustle

Summary: Set in New Jersey in the late ‘70’s, this movie is based on true life events. Two con artists are engaged by an out-of-control FBI operative to bring down politicians and mobsters in Atlantic City.

Although this movie isn’t billed as a comedy, it has more laughs per minute than Anchorman II had in two hours.

Christian Bale stars as Irving, an overweight, balding con artist who, along with his partner Sydney (Amy Adams) finds himself working with FBI agent Richie DiMaso to bring down a political empire in New Jersey.

There are many nuances at work in this finely layered story that involves a love triangle for Bale who is married to Jennifer Lawrence’s Rosalyn. Each woman is jealous of the other which serves to complicate matters for both Irving and Richie.

Richie (Bradley Cooper) is falling for Sydney and a mobster has eyes on Rosalyn, so it’s amusing to watch Irving’s reactions to the situation since he may end up losing both ladies if he isn’t careful.

In fine form, though, Irving manages to keep his fingers on the strings as he plays everyone through the course of the ultimate hustle of his career. He manages to balance the FBI agent, the politicos and the Jersey mob, which isn’t an easy thing to do.

Jeremy Renner is in fine form here, playing Camden Mayor Carmine Polito who becomes an anchor point of the sting operation.

Other players in the mix are Louis C.K. as Dimaso’s boss Stoddard Thorsen. He keeps trying to rein in his rogue operative, but instead manages to anger him with his reticence and penchant for telling ice fishing tales that have no conclusion.

And Robert DeNiro pops in for a brief cameo playing a reputed mob underboss who may know what’s going on long before any of the rest of the players.

Michael Pena manages to steal a scene or two as a faux sheik who is brought in to supposedly invest in Polito’s schemes to expand casino gambling in Jersey. His character is a mix of Italian and Mexican who just happens to be able to speak a little Arabic. Who knew?

This is a movie that develops it’s story from start to finish. Even if you know the way the story ends (from history books and the newspaper accounts of the era) the movie will manage to surprise, titillate and touch viewers throughout the unfolding story.

David O. Russell once again has created an emotional masterpiece with his stars. He reunites with Cooper and Lawrence who starred in last year’s uber successful Silver Linings Playbook which won an Oscar for Lawrence who is currently also starring in the latest Hunger Games installment.

There is plenty of Oscar buzz developing for this movie, too. And there is no surprise here given the sheer amount of talent present throughout the film. It manages to recreate the late ‘70’s quite beautifully and, even though we can’t know how close these characters come to their real-life counterparts, we can buy each and every one of their actions, as well as the final outcome of the story.

I give American Hustle 5 out of 5 stars.

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