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Chaotic to a fault, “American Hustle” still cons us with incredible cast

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David O. Russell has solidified his position among the best contemporary directors and screenwriters in Hollywood today. His latest is a comedy, among other things, that takes on a fictionalized account of the Abscam sting operation that put corrupt politicians behind bars for taking bribes. “American Hustle” is a bit reckless in its storytelling style, jumping forward and backward in an annoying attempt to confuse the audience (which it did at times to a fault). Structurally, the layout of the film resembles the complexity and convolutedness of the con itself being done by the characters, yet sometimes it took one out of the tale being told.
Even with the flaws in writing it still is a dynamic and at times hilarious story that features one of the best ensemble casts of the year. Christian Bale’s makeup artist and trainer should get Oscars just for his appearance as a fat con artist with the worst comb over ever. The movie even opens with no dialogue as he tries to tame that beast. Not everyone is buff and model handsome, especially conmen of a lower class, so if anything his appearance made his character more believable as well as just funny to observe.
Unlike many of Bale’s performances though he was the calm center of a kooky storm. Bradley Cooper as a crazy, Jewish, metrosexual FBI agent with and outrageous perm is at times grating, causing one to wish someone slaps him or shakes him into common sense but the story would not have worked if he is coolheaded. Still, it would have been nice if the FBI agent at least sometimes made it plausible that he works for said agency. Amy Adams is hot as ever, flowing in and out of a British accent and showing more side boob that one could have hoped for, completely conning the audience throughout as much as all of her victims in the film.
The big acting awards buzz though is for Jennifer Lawrence, the unstable wife of Bale’s Irving Rosenfeld. Most of her stage time is in the second half and she is definitely a loose cannon. You never know what is coming next with her; unlike the conmen who strategize every move first she just stumbles into her mayhem. The final main character is Jeremy Renner, the only one of the five sans a golden globes nomination. That frankly is a shame as he finally proves he has range, playing a loveable yet naïve nitwit of a mayor opposed to his usual tough secret agent type. At times one cannot help but shake their head and say “Awww honey, no. Just no.” but he is truly the only non-corrupt person, albeit intentionally only as he does break the law. Robert Deniro makes a fun cameo as a mob hit man, radiating a sinister goodfella vibe. Louis C. K. though has the best surprise performance, rarely seen on the big screen but always funny when he appears. It is agonizing how we never discover the end to his ice fishing tale but his quiet frustration that he’s known for on his television show definitely makes all of his scenes highlights of the film.
The costuming is perfect for the 1978 setting and thankfully such clothing can only be found at thrift stores. It definitely creates the 1970’s feel but a red velvet jacket is just wrong. The music also fits the era well but the bumper periods between scenes are stretched a little too much.
Overall, the film is a sure fire hit full of laughs as well as some squirms. Russell creates a fun world with a clever story so well that one cannot help but already long for his next flick.

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