Rolling up after directing the acclaimed The Fighter and Oscar-driven sensation, Silver Linings Playbook (which also directs J-Law to her first Oscar), I said: there’s no rest for David O. Russell. He buckles up to direct American Hustle, an expeditious crime flick which eventually becomes as funny and hilarious as his previous work in different way. Although, it employs “all-star” ensembles of casts and turns up becoming the most ambitious Oscar contender, I find that American Hustle is less than something (out of everything).
American Hustle (originally titled “American Bullshit”, with massive occurrences of “bullshit” literally and non-literally) embraces the hustle for love, for money, for respect, for truth, and… a “some of this actually happened” sign referring to a less known ABSCAM operation in the late 1970’s until early 1980’s. This tricky story focuses on a con artist, Irving Rosenfeld (Christian Bale in disguise), with his pot-belly and fake big hairs, and his relationship with a smart ex-stripper, Sydney Prosser, with her British persona, Lady Edith Greensly (Amy Adams). Well, both of them successfully run their illegal loan business and maintain their secret romance. Yeah, secret as the movie introduces Rosalyn, a plump, aggressive wife of Irv (portrayed by Jennifer Lawrence). Then, trouble comes on-time when the ambitious and flamboyant FBI officer Richie DiMaso (Bradley Cooper) comes in disguise and traps the couple, then forces them to get involved in an operation to catch white-collar criminals.
The heart of the story moves to its core when further trouble comes along with the operation. Irv begins to befriend Mayor Carmine Polito (Jeremy Renner), his actual prey, along with both families–Irv’s and Carmine’s. Meanwhile, Edith and Richie get involved in a quirky relationship.
For me, telling how stunning this movie is becomes the easiest part since I need lesser words other than “great” or “awesome”. However, telling the terrible parts of this movie really needs some efforts. In overall, the showcase of its stars is inevitable–Bale has done a very stunning performance here along with his on-screen partner Adams, who play her parts amazingly–while the artistic departments do mesmerize the audience with candy-coloured portrayal of 70’s with fancy hairs (J-Law’s the best!), fancy outfits, and all the glams. Simply saying, Russell as a director really knows how to make his stars shine brighter. Working mostly with his previous collaborators, he again makes Oscar ways for them as he has his four actors nominated in (Bale on leading actor, Adams on leading actress, Cooper on supporting actor, and J-Law on supporting actress) along with himself instead. Despite of not being nominated anywhere, yet, for me, Renner’s portrayal of Carmine Polito and De Niro’s cruel cameo also positively deserve a look.
In presenting its production sets and characters, American Hustle really wins the audience. Yet, American Hustle is surprisingly weak in its narrative. The presentation and pacing are a bit scrambling, with most events in its middle act seem like floating everywhere. Consequently, not only once or twice I get bored in watching this movie.
Some twists, minor and major, are there apparently to save the middle act, while strong dialogues are deviced all over the movie trying to explain what actually happens–American Hustle has lost its standpoints in narration that being too complex but flat. I believe Russell and Eric Singer, the writer, could have made the ready-made’true-event’ things with the intriguing plot much better.
Well, the characters are very strong and entertaining. Yet, I find it a little queer having J-Law portrays a character that only resembles her previous portrayal in collaboration with Russell–her Rosalyn is as annoying as her Tiffany; only Rosalyn lives in different era, is all. Her co-star in Silver Linings Playbook, Cooper, gets a different treatment here, which I think very frustrating as we begins to be sympathetic to his Richie, suddenly we don’t get a clear vision how he gets victimized by the story.
It seems like embracing various reasons of hustle from different complex characters is more difficult but intriguing than embracing some bullshits–therefore, it is American Hustle (and American Bullshit is dropped eventually).
TITLE: American Hustle
GENRE: Drama, Comedy, Crime / DIRECTOR: David O. Russell / WRITERS: David O. Russell, Eric Warren Singer / MUSIC: Danny Elfman / DoP: Linus Sandgren / CASTS: Christian Bale, Amy Adams, Bradley Cooper, Jennifer Lawrence, Jeremy Renner, Robert DeNiro