American Hustle review

Director:
David O. Russell
Cast:
Christian Bale
Bradley Cooper
Amy Adams
Jeremy Renner
Jennifer Lawrence
Rated: R
Trailer

With this great of a cast, I was hoping for a really great movie. What I got was simply an OK one.

“American Hustle” follows the story of two con artists named Irving (Bale) and Sydney (Adams). The two seem to have a good thing going together as they are making money through their various schemes. This changes, though, when they are found out by FBI Agent Richie (Cooper).

Instead of putting the two behind bars, however, Richie allows them to assist him in a corruption scandal case which involves a mayor (played by Renner), congressmen and the mafia. As the case goes on, more drama is added to the situation when Irving’s wife Rosalyn (Lawrence) comes into the equation and threatens to mess with the whole operation.

“American Hustle” has a flaw that really hurts it and that is the tone it takes. The film, which continues to bring the characters deeper into a dangerous situation never gets suspenseful because the entire picture is played more as a comedy.

Moments where the plot should be thickening and the tension should be rising are broken as items like the wild hair styles of the 70s are played for laughs.

I don’t mind installing humor into a film that is trying to take on a more serious subject matter, for example, Quentin Tarantino does it all the time. However, when it’s done here, it just becomes distracting and takes a person out of the movie. I was also surprised by the lack depth and intricacy into the actual scheme itself. The movie didn’t seem to be interested into really exploring how the con operation was pulled off as the climax is rushed.

The cast does raise the material to an extent. Bale, like usual, completely embodies the character and pulls off a good performance. Jennifer Lawrence is also good in the film, really portraying an extreme crazy character (despite a bad scene featuring the song “Live and Let Die”).

Unfortunately, not all of the cast gave memorable performances. Amy Adams, who usually is fantastic was just OK here. She never pushes her character to a high level. Cooper was also forgettable in the film, feeling a bit too much like a generic character. It also felt as if Renner was underused, not having enough time to really have an impact.

As previously stated, much of the film’s take on the 70s is played for laughs, which was just too much. Instead of just being a stylized period piece, Director O. Russell had the need to point out every bit of funny hair pieces or old technology just to get some laughs.

To be perfectly fair, there are plenty of good moments in “American Hustle.” The film does offer nice dialogue scenes, it features a great performance by Bale and despite not being particularly memorable, the rest of the cast isn’t necessarily bad.

The fact is that it’s difficult to take anything in the movie seriously because the movie itself doesn’t really take itself seriously, and from that it’s just hard to care. This leads to the movie feeling uneventful, especially considering the rushed ending. It’s worth catching at a Saturday afternoon matinee, but it’s not a film that is award caliber. 2.75 out of 5.

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Author: Matthew Liedke

My name is Matthew Liedke. I'm a reporter for the Bemidji Pioneer in Minnesota, but I also have a passion for the art of film. This passion led me to start writing about film in 2008. From 2008-2016 I wrote pieces at my own website, After the Movie Reviews. Then, from 2016-May 2018, my write-ups were featured on AreaVoices, a blog network run by Forum Communications Company. Today, I now write film reviews and other pieces here on Word Press. More about me: I'm a 2012 graduate of Minnesota State University Moorhead where I studied journalism and film. Outside of film, I enjoy sports, video games, anime and craft beers.

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