Is it possible to master the art of deception without all of your lies catching up with you? Is there anyone you can do to find your way out of the mess that you created? That's part of the premise behind the DVD release of "American Hustle," which had two con artists struggling to break out of a dangerous situation. Although the story was very entertaining, the film's too many twists and turns had the potential to leave viewers more frustrated than entertained.
"American Hustle" followed a successful con artist named Irving Rosenfeld (Christian Bale) who was great at reading what people needed and used it to his advantage every time. His business was originally at a much smaller scale until he met Sydney Prosser (Amy Adams) who became both his partner and lover in crime. In Sydney, Irving felt that he had someone that he could truly be himself with, but he was already married to the very unstable Rosalyn (Jennifer Lawrence). Rosalyn tended to not have the best judgment and could potentially make a mistake with their son in the house. He pondered leaving his wife for Sydney, but he was always afraid of what would happen to his son in the long run. Unfortunately, Irving and Sydney had bigger things to worry about when they crossed paths with FBI Agent Richie DiMaso (Bradley Cooper) who got them both dead to rights on one of their scams. He recruited them to help bust some powerful criminals to secure their freedom. Irving and Sydney found their latest mark in Mayor Carmine Polito (Jeremy Renner) who was willing to do what it took to get casinos built in Atlantic City, even if it meant taking a few bribes along the way. Irving started to develop a genuine friendship with the Mayor that made him feel all the more guilty. Carmine's devoted wife Dolly (Elisabeth Rohm) was even developing a friendship with Rosalyn who could derail everything as she continued to get closer to some of the more powerful players in the operation. Will Irving be able to get out of the operation with his freedom and his life intact?
In terms of questions, the movie posed a few that were somehow answered in a way that could leave many viewers a little dismayed overall. Sure, Director David O. Russell managed to spin a breezily entertaining tale about lying con artists and other everyday people who did everything they could to survive. The director seemed to demonstrate his love for everything from the 1970s to great detail down to Bradley Cooper's perm and the various artists from the decade playing on the film's soundtrack. The movie also had a brief cameo from artist Jack Jones in a scene that showcased a few of the actors having a fun time. Russell's affection for the 1970s was evident in every scene, but the only problem was that the movie's leisurely pace took too long to get to the heart of the story and even then the film's conclusion made everything else seem a little bit like a warm up for a follow-up that will never happen. What managed to make the movie worth watching was the fine performances between the main cast members who were willing to do what it took to sell the film convincingly. Okay, some of the scenes were a little over the top and equally hilarious at the same time. Most of the scenes involved Lawrence's wild card Rosalyn and some of her Lucille Ball type antics as she tried to bring credibility to what could've been a stereotypical role. Her funniest scenes involved her character blowing up a microwave out of spite and singing along to "Live and Let Die" while wilding cleaning her house. Unfortunately, there weren't more scenes like that to balance out some of the melodrama.
As for breakout performances, Adams and Lawrence led the pack as two very different women who would do anything to be on top. Sadly, they only shared a few scenes together as they confronted each other for the first time as Rosalyn confronted her husband's estranged mistress. In terms of which character ended up the victor, it was Lawrence's Rosalyn who went for broke as she went for the jugular over Sydney's willingness to go after her husband. She surprised everyone by planting a kiss on Adams' Sydney to showcase that they were more alike than either was willing to admit. Lawrence's Rosalyn was designed to be the movie's most unpredictable character, but she ended up delivering so much more than a mere cardboard cutout as she managed to slightly flesh out some of Rosalyn's more elaborate behavior. She gave Rosalyn a mixture of anger, sadness and vulnerability as she told her husband that she simply wanted to be loved and included in his life. Adams, on the other hand, had the more challenging task of making a femme fatale someone to root for. She designed Sydney to be a character who focused on tricking people and pretending to be someone that no one truly know who she was. The one time that she told the truth no one truly believed her or her motives. She provided Sydney was the right level of sweetness, grit and heartbreak as she realized that her lies were catching up to her. It's just a shame that Adams and Lawrence didn't get the opportunity to share another scene together after everything was said and done to complete the story for good. Hopefully, they'll get the chance to work together again sooner rather than later.
Verdict: The movie offered some charming performances and a number of entertaining moments, but the film's unbalanced pace and questionable ending threatened to derail everything in the end.
DVD Score: 2.5 out of 5 stars
Movie Rating: R
1 Star (Mediocre)
2 Stars (Averagely Entertaining)
3 Stars (Decent Enough to Pass Muster)
4 Stars (Near Perfect)
5 Stars (Gold Standard)