Saturday, December 21, 2013

American Hustle review

Back in the late 1990's and early 2000's, David O. Russell was a filmmaker that very few people had on their radar. He directed several small films like Spanking the Monkey, Flirting With Disaster and I Heart Huckabees. His biggest hit was 1999's Three Kings, but even that wasn't a major box office success. In fact, these films seemed to get Russell a bad reputation, and many people said that he was difficult to work with. However, Russell has seen a resurgence in recent years. He found his way onto the Academy's radar with 2010's The Fighter, and continued his hot streak with last year's Silver Linings Playbook. Russell has now managed to become one of Hollywood's hottest directors, and has found a group of actors that love working with him. American Hustle is Russell's latest film, and probably his craziest and biggest film yet. American Hustle features a large cast of characters and a twisty plot that keeps you on the edge of your seat. It's one of the complex films of the year. And it's also one of the absolute best.

American Hustle tells the story of Irving Rosenfeld (Christian Bale), a con artist in the 1970's. Rosenfeld works with his girlfriend Sydney Prosser (Amy Adams) to scam people out of money along with selling faulty art to unsuspecting buyers. One day, the two criminals are caught by Richie DeMaso (Bradley Cooper), an FBI agent who's out to trap con artists. DeMaso strikes a deal with Irving and Sydney: they can get out of jail if they help DeMaso trap other con artists. They agree, and DeMaso starts his sting operation. However, when DeMaso learns that he can trap bigger politicians and mafioso through Mayor Carmine Polito (Jeremy Renner), the operation starts to become dangerous and is threatened by Irving's uncontrolled wife Rosalyn (Jennifer Lawrence).

American Hustle is a film that you need to watch carefully. This is not a film that you can watch mindlessly. You have to be paying attention constantly, otherwise you'll get lost quickly. This is a complex, detailed film, and that's why it's one of the year's best. Films of this level don't come around very often. American Hustle is a film packed with details and twists and on first viewing, is a little hard to keep up with. However, Russell definitely continues his hot streak here with a fantastic period setting, a solid story, and a fantastic cast of characters for a film that is definitely a must watch for everyone.

I absolutely loved this movie, so let me get a few of my little problems out of the way first. The film is complex and a bit confusing. That's both a positive and a negative so I can't really count it. American Hustle moves very fast and doesn't ever stop, which makes for a fantastic experience. However, I found myself slightly lost at times in terms of where the plot was going. Also, it's a bit long, and at times you feel the length of the film. Yet, every scene deserves to be in the plot, and I can't imagine the movie without any of the scenes.

It's impossible to talk about a David O. Russell movie without talking about the performances. The director always gets excellent performances from his actors and the Academy has recognized that. Absolutely nothing changes with American Hustle. The film is brimming with colorful, crazy performances, and I'm pretty sure that some of these guys will be picking up Oscars in March. Christian Bale is fantastic as Irving Rosenfeld. He's a good bad guy who cons people, yet knows that the sting operation is not the right thing to do. Amy Adams is also very subtle as Sydney. Adams is less flashy in her performance than the rest of the cast, but her wardrobe makes her fit right in with the rest of the crew.

Jeremy Renner is also great as the slightly crooked mayor with good intentions. He makes Carmine a truly sympathetic character, and there's a scene late in the movie that is truly tragic to watch. The two best performances come from Bradley Cooper and Jennifer Lawrence in supporting roles. Cooper plays the coked-out FBI agent with a mixture of emotions and his character is truly crazy. Lawrence also proves that her performance in Silver Linings Playbook was no fluke: she's the real deal. Her performance here is absolutely hilarious, and she's also more than slightly unstable.

Russell's pacing here is just right. The film is hectic and crazy, yet moves at a pace that feels leisurely. American Hustle feels like a film straight out of the era that it's portraying, and that's truly special. The first half hour is quite fantastic, and it makes you really root for the relationship between Irving and Sydney. The rest of the film moves from point A to point B very fast, yet it lets the dialogue and characters breathe. It's a true balancing act, and the film holds together exceptionally well. This is a true feat of screenwriting and directing by Russell.

With this film, it also seemed like Russell had found his true directing style. I can't even really describe it. It's just his. Russell's films are hectic with wide circling shots and cool camera angles. American Hustle truly embraces that and puts a little bit of the 70's grittiness in there as well. It's a very well directed film, and I definitely anticipate Russell picking up another directing nomination when the Oscars roll around.

The style and flow of this film is helped by the excellent soundtrack and the colorful costumes. These things truly immerse you in the era and help make the film feel more authentic. American Hustle embraces its inner weirdness and lets it flow with the costumes and songs. It's quite a fantastic film in terms of style. It's probably better than last year's Argo.

The script was originally written by Eric Warren Singer, but Russell came in and made his own changes. American Hustle fits into Russell's filmography very well. You get to know these characters very well, the dialogue is crisp, and the performances are fantastic. Russell did a great job with this film. The plot can get a little hectic at times, so it's good that he put an emphasis on character.

Overall, American Hustle is a fantastic film, and one that I believe will only get better after multiple viewings. It's a dense, complex film, and you might not catch everything at first, but the film is worth seeing over and over again. These characters are so much fun to be around, and the film is so well constructed and funny. American Hustle is a masterpiece and a film that will eventually become a classic. It's one of the year's best films. Plain and simple.

THE FINAL GRADE:  A+                                             (9.8/10)

1 comment:

  1. Definitely an actor's film, with some great moments and terrific performances within an uneven story backed by a killer 70's soundtrack.