Review: American Hustle

David O Russell’s latest is wonderfully acted but the hustle ends up falling flat. reviews

american hustle 1

Director: David O Russell
Starring: Bradley Cooper, Christian Bale, Jennifer Lawrence, Amy Adams
Running time: 138 minutes
Rating: ★★★★☆

David O Russell’s latest cinematic offering since the triumphant Silver Linings Playbook is a morally ambiguous take on the ABSCAM scandal of the 1970’s. Irving Rosenfeld (Christian Bale) is a conman who preys on the overly rich and desperate, and together with the love of his life, Sydney Prosser (wonderfully portrayed by Amy Adams) they embark on a loan scam scheme. But after years of living a lifestyle of luxury and deceit, they are caught by F.B.I agent, Richard DiMaso (Bradley Cooper) and forced to take part in an operation to trap the ‘corrupt’ New Jersey Mayor Carmine Polito (Jeremy Renner) in order to earn their freedom. While the story is based on real events, Russell uses a liberal amount of artistic license and the result is a stereotypical Russell film.

Bale’s turn as the conflicted and overweight Irving is a triumph and despite his character carrying on a long-term affair and neglecting his chaotic and depressed wife Roselyn (Jennifer Lawrence) he somehow captures the audience’s sympathies.

O’Russell is a director who likes to stick with the same actors, and the stars of Silver Linings Playbook are on fine form once again. Cooper has proved that his dramatic turn in Silver Linings wasn’t a fluke and his take on the slightly mentally unhinged and fixated Agent DiMaso is as concerning as it is amusing. But the real star of this film is Jennifer Lawrence’s Roselyn; she provides much of the film’s comic relief as she stumbles about in an alcoholic stupor, expertly manipulating her cheating husband and young son.

However, the character driven storyline of American Hustle has its flaws and the morally ambiguous ending leaves the audience with a sense of dissatisfaction. While the individual performances stand out, the film itself lacks a sense of achievement towards the end. There is no ultimate pay off for those involved in the hustle, and it ends up falling flat.

As a film it certainly questions the morality of the decade it portrays, from Roselyn’s alcoholism and DiMasso’s dangerous temper, every character is severely flawed. While I am in no doubt that this film will score an Oscar nomination due to the wonderfully conflicted characters that drive the film, it lacks the emotional punch of other contenders. Ultimately, this twisted and hedonistic story is entertaining and certainly has its moments of outright hilarity. But it lacks an air of finality, and that made Silver Linings Playbook such a success.

Equally, the film could have done without the gratuitous and self indulgent Robert Di Niro cameo – even if Robert Di Niro played Robert Di Niro with effortless ease.

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