American Hustle appears to be following on a similar trend to director David O. Russell’s previous two features, The Fighter and Silver Linings Playbook, in that it is yet another of the New York born filmmakers’ productions to be a key player in the awards’ season. However, and again, much like Russell’s previous two endeavours, such glorious triumphs seem somewhat undeserved. As enjoyable and compelling this may be, it’s not quite the exceptional spectacle you may be led to believe.
It was all supposed to be so easy. That’s the crux of this crime caper, of a seemingly straightforward operation that goes horribly wrong. Christian Bale stars as Irving Rosenfeld, a sagacious swindler, who teams up with the discerning Sydney Prosser (Amy Adams) – as the pair form both a professional and somewhat intimate relationship, despite the former’s marriage to the unstable, destitute housewife Rosalyn (Jennifer Lawrence). Everything appears to be rosy for Rosenfeld, until his corrupt money making scheme comes to an abrupt halt when busted by local FBI agent Richie DiMaso (Bradley Cooper). Desperately hoping to avoid a spell in jail, the pair reluctantly agree to cooperate with the law enforcement and help bring down Mayor Carmine Polito (Jeremy Renner) – though the politicians’ benevolence makes matters somewhat more difficult.
American Hustle – which has combined both the stars of The Fighter with the stars of Silver Linings Playbook, is arguably Russell’s most accomplished feature yet – and owes a lot to Martin Scorsese, to whom this picture pays a loving homage. Russell finds a strong blend between comedy and drama – as despite the moments of sheer hilarity, there is a tense undercurrent that runs through this movie, as you know that the whole mission is on the brink of destruction, and heads will roll. Above anything else, however, are the immense performances. Particularly Bale’s, who is the heartbeat of this movie: turning in a performance with such sincerity and subtlety, as he portrays both the shrewd and frail elements of his character, to create something rather special.
Lawrence too continues to beguile, with her sights set on yet another Oscar triumph. The actors, as talented as they may be, do have a fine screenplay to thank, as Eric Singer’s script provides some fleshed out characters, all flawed in their own unique way. There is certainly a lot to admire about this production, it’s just a shame that it is somewhat overhyped, as when others endorse a product so fervently, it can often seek to dampen the experience for those who aren’t quite so taken with it.