American Hustle (15)

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The ViewBirmingham Review

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Review byMatthew Turner18/12/2013

Five out of Five stars
Running time: 139 mins

Brilliantly directed and superbly written, this is a hugely entertaining drama with impeccable production design work, a fabulous soundtrack and note-perfect performances from a terrific ensemble cast.

What's it all about?
Co-written and directed by David O. Russell, American Hustle is loosely based on the events surrounding the FBI's Abscam sting in the late 1970s – a caption at the beginning of the film announces “Some of this actually happened.” Christian Bale stars as overweight, balding (the opening scene sees him elaborately gluing on a hairpiece) con man Irving Rosenfeld, who runs a low-level fraud game with his girlfriend Sydney (Amy Adams).

When they get caught by ambitious FBI agent Richie DiMaso (Bradley Cooper), Sydney wants to flee the country, but Irving is reluctant to leave his flighty wife Rosalyn (Jennifer Lawrence), whose young son he has just adopted. Instead, Richie coerces both Irving and Sydney into taking part in an elaborate scam intended to entrap mobsters and dirty politicians, but Irving becomes increasingly uncomfortable as he befriends intended target Mayor Carmine Polito (Jeremy Renner) and realises he's a decent man trying to help his community.

The Good
Reuniting the casts of his two previous films (Bale and Adams from The Fighter, Cooper and Lawrence from Silver Linings Playbook), Russell elicits terrific performances from all four leads, particularly Adams, who is simply sensational as Sydney, exhibiting both a hard-edged instinct towards self-preservation (she calmly announces to Irving that she'll be cosying up to Richie so he'll go easy on her) and an aching vulnerability (the scene where she squares off against Rosalyn in a club toilet is one of several highlights).

Bale (who put on a frankly disturbing amount of weight for the role) is equally good as Irving, underplaying it to engaging effect and gradually building sympathy for the character in unexpected ways, while Lawrence steals every scene as always-wrong-but-thinks-she's-right Jersey Girl Rosalyn (the scene where she blows up a microwave is laugh-out-loud funny). Similarly, a cast against type Cooper seizes the chance to play an asshole for once and duly delivers perhaps his best performance to date.

The Great
As with The Fighter and Silver Linings Playbook, Russell takes an edgy, multi-layered character-led approach to what in other hands could have been routine studio genre fare. As such, there are occasional echoes of Scorsese's Goodfellas, thanks to some superb editing, impeccable production design work (the glorious hairstyles alone deserve an Oscar), fabulous costumes and a superb soundtrack.

On top of that, the brilliantly written script is utterly gripping throughout, maintaining a constant level of tension as to exactly who's hustling who at any given point. It's also consistently laugh-out-loud funny, with several quotable lines and a number of simply wonderful scenes (such as Lawrence defiantly lip-synching to Live and Let Die while doing the housework) that will have you grinning from ear to ear.

Worth seeing?
American Hustle is a brilliantly made and wonderfully acted drama that's a treat from start to finish. In a word, unmissable.

Film Trailer

American Hustle (15)
American Hustle has been reviewed by 1 users
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Content updated: 18/11/2017 14:07

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