Saturday, December 21
REVIEW: American Hustle
Directed by David O. Russell
2013 Crime Drama
2 hours 18 minutes
From Columbia Pictures
I love director David O. Russell's work, especially The Fighter and Silver Linings Playbook. Part of my desire to see this film was to again see two actors from each of those films, Bale and Adams from the former and Lawrence and Cooper from the latter. All through this one I was reminded of Martin Scorsese. This reminded me of The Departed and a number of his other works. Russell usually has a main character who is on the edge, just about to lose it and the fun comes in watching what happens. Here, frankly, everyone is on the edge and one cannot be totally sure where it's all going to lead. Clearly the intention here is that the audience needs to figure out a few things for themselves.
The plot is loosely based on the Abscam sting in the late 1970s where U.S. Congressmen were caught taking bribes. Here a con artist aids the FBI in the sting which includes an over-zealous, hyper FBI agent, the con's greedy girlfriend and the con's loose-lipped spouse. For those moviegoers who need a good guy to root for, this is clearly not the film for you.
There is almost a comical look at con artists... there is so much scamming going on here that one is not always certain who is conning whom, who's telling the truth and who's not. Bale has said that he does not do comedy but I got quite a few laughs out of the antics of his character. If there was an award for bad hair, all three of the male leads would be up for it.
While Bale's character has been into penny ante gigs for most of his life, he hits the big time when he comes across Adams who is ready to rock and roll. Her desire to reinvent herself for the umpteenth time is exceeded only by her greed. Beware the gangster's wife (Lawrence) who doesn't like sitting on the sidelines while her husband has all the fun. Cooper, the FBI agent, takes the scheme of Bale and Adams and sets out to turn it into something grander. Renner is a New Jersey mayor who pledges he is in it for the people while waiting for his hands to be greased.
On the downside, the film is too long and it dragged in several spots. The highlight, of course, was this amazing cast... migawd Bale, Adams, Cooper, Lawrence, Renner. What more could one want? While I am certainly not out to fault the male actors in the slightest, but what we have here are two dynamic performances by these women.
Adams has the larger part and she is at once snarky, sexy, smart and driven. This woman is one of the best actresses we have in the U.S. with a range as wide as the whole country. I have always enjoyed her work and I have seen all of it. For the most part I found her to be a sweet young thing which she pulled off very well with that demure smile, lowered eyes and always a touch of innocence. But I practically fell out of my seat seeing her as a smartassed bartender, rough and tough through and through, in The Fighter and now American Hustle is her post-graduate work. She's joining my sorority of tough dames.
Jennifer Lawrence has always been tough in my eyes. She'd been around a little while before I noticed her but I am up-to-date now. I love her brazen sassiness and her complete naturalness as an actor. In the spirit of bringing something of one's self to a role, Lawrence is wise beyond her years. It's difficult to watch anyone else in a scene with her although a confrontation she has with Adams made my eyes go back and forth like at a tennis match. It's been said that when Lawrence signed on to the project, Russell beefed up her role some. Lucky for us.
With this cast and the subject matter, with Russell at the helm and with the word-of-mouth that's bound to erupt, this should be a big crowd-pleaser and fill the coffers at Columbia Pictures.
Review of Saving Mr. Banks