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USA 2013
Directed by
David O. Russell
129 minutes
Rated M

Reviewed by
Bernard Hemingway
4 stars

American Hustle

Synopsis: When small-time hustler, Irving Rosenfeld (Christian Bale), meets Sydney Prosser, a small-town escapee with a similar bent for petty larceny his crummy scams take off. That is until they are busted  by ambitious FBI agent  Richie DiMaso (Bradley Cooper) who thinks he can use them to catch bigger fish. How little does he know!

I was no fan of David O. Russell’s previous film, the multi-Oscar-nominated Silver Linings Playbook and more than a little non-plussed by its leading lady, Jennifer Lawrence, picking up the Best Actress statuette.  I'm happy to say, however, that the director’s new film is a ton of fun and as far as I’m concerned Lawrence can have the Oscar for her turn here as Mrs Irving Rosenfeld, a wacky bottle blonde with a beehive in a state of permanent collapse.

Re-teaming Lawrence with her Playbook co-star Bradley Cooper and calling back Christian Bale and Amy Adams from his 2011 film The Fighter Russell takes on the crime caper genre with exuberance and style aplenty. The result is one of the most entertaining and genuinely amusing films of the year.

In yet another stellar performance, Bale takes centre stage as the paunchy, bespectacled Irving Rosenfeld, an improbable con-man with a ludicrously-obvious comb-over and an idiosyncratic moral agenda whose territory is the lower reaches of late-1970s New Jersey. A kind of low rent version of Sam Rothstein in Scorsese’s Casino as Lawrence’s Rosalyn is to Sharon Stone’s Ginger, the pair are wonderfully-drawn characters and the performances by Bale and Lawrence make them truly sing.

On the second rung are Adams and Cooper.  Although I found Cooper’s character a little too obviously contrived and overplayed Adams brings a nicely controlled quality to proceedings as Rosenfeld’s canny partner in crime.  Rounding out the headlining bill is Jeremy Renner as Carmen Polito, the pompadour-sporting mayor of New Jersey. Perhaps not the wisest choice of casting here as he lacks the easy, riffing style which makes the performances of the other leads so effective. One should also acknowledge a brilliant cameo appearance from Robert De Niro as a Mafia heavyweight and a fine turn from Louis C.K. as Richie's exasperated boss.

The film opens with the title “Some of this actually happened”, a note which neatly sets the tone for this freewheelin’, tongue-in-cheek romp.  Don't get too caught up in the plot - how much of it is true and how it all came to pass isn’t so important as the fun you’ll have watching the characters individually and severally bounce off each other and assorted over-decorated walls. With a zesty comedic script, first class performances, fab retro '70s production design (probably the best of its kind since Paul Thomas Anderson's Boogie Nights (1997) and a clutch of groovy Top 40 hits of the period, a good time is guaranteed for all.




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