Review: American Hustle


Director:David O. Russell

Cast:Christian Bale, Amy Adams, Bradley Cooper, Jennifer Lawrence, Jeremy Renner, Louis CK

Running Time:138 Minutes


Though it didn't have me hook, line, and sinker like his previous film, David O. Russell's American Hustle is one of the best movies of the year, even if it can't quite live up to expectations.

Still, there's an embarrassment of riches in American Hustle so it's hard to know where to begin. So let's start with that ensemble cast, the best of the year. Christian Bale, giving a rare comedic performance, absolutely kills it as Irving Rosenfeld. Behind a huge belly and horrific hairpiece, he gives the performance the swagger and heft it needs to portray a man who can swindle anyone, even the most beautiful women in the room.

His partner in crime is Sydney (Amy Adams), who quits her job at Cosmopolitan to play the part of "Lady Edith Greeley, with banking connections in London." They scam dozens of low-level crooks until Richie DiMaso (Bradley Cooper) catches them and forces them to work for the FBI to bring in other con artists.

From there, it's pretty much chaos as they all try to bite off more than they can chew. Richie thinks he can bring down corrupt politicians. Sydney thinks she can play both Irving and Richie. Irving thinks he can find a way to keep both Sydney and his young wife Rosalyn (Jennifer Lawrence). They all converge on Carmine Polito (Jeremy Renner), the mayor of Camden, New Jersey, who thinks he can save Atlantic City.

What keeps American Hustle from being a true masterpiece is that, for all the wheeling and dealing, there's very little substance. This is a showcase for these great actors (and the costume designers) but little else. That doesn't mean it's not entertaining. It just could have been something even more, and probably was, back when Eric Singer wrote the first draft called American Bullshit.

But in its final form, American Hustle is probably the funniest movie of the year. It's not just the hairstyles. There are genuine laughs from every member of the cast, but particularly Jennifer Lawrence and Bradley Cooper. The former walks a fine line. She almost veers into annoying, and your mileage may vary. For the latter, he's giving the best performance of his career. While Silver Linings Playbook may be the more complex role, Richie DiMaso combines all douchiness and charisma into one fireball.

While it wasn't the masterpiece I had hoped for, there's plenty to enjoy for anyone who loves movies.


About Kip Mooney

Kip Mooney
Like many film critics born during and after the 1980s, my hero is Roger Ebert. The man was already the best critic in the nation when he won the Pulitzer in 1975, but his indomitable spirit during and after his recent battle with cancer keeps me coming back to read not only his reviews but his insightful commentary on the everyday. But enough about a guy you know a lot about. I knew I was going to be a film critic—some would say a snob—in middle school, when I had to voraciously defend my position that The Royal Tenenbaums was only a million times better than Adam Sandler’s remake of Mr. Deeds. From then on, I would seek out Wes Anderson’s films and avoid Sandler’s like the plague. Still, I like to think of myself as a populist, and I’ll be just as likely to see the next superhero movie as the next Sundance sensation. The thing I most deplore in a movie is laziness. I’d much rather see movies with big ambitions try and fail than movies with no ambitions succeed at simply existing. I’m also a big advocate of fun-bad movies like The Room and most of Nicolas Cage’s work. In the past, I’ve written for The Dallas Morning News and the North Texas Daily, which I edited for a semester. I also contributed to Dallas-based Pegasus News, which in the circle of life, is now part of The Dallas Morning News, where I got my big break in 2007. Eventually, I’d love to write and talk about film full-time, but until that’s a viable career option, I work as an auditor for Wells Fargo. I hope to one day meet my hero, go to the Toronto International Film Festival, and compete on Jeopardy. Until then, I’m excited to share my love of film with you.

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