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'American Hustle' is an over the top take on the search for the American Dream

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American Hustle

Rating:
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Star

Release date: December 20, 2013

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Directed by: David O. Russell

Written by: Eric Singer and David O. Russell

Starring: Christian Bale, Amy Adams, Jennifer Lawrence, Jeremy Renner, and Bradley Cooper

Official website: AmericanHustle-movie.com

Early on in David O. Russell's hilarious new flick about confidence men and over-zealous FBI sting operations, "American Hustle", Amy Adam's character utters a line that sets everything up, "At the bottom, everyone crosses paths eventually."

It's a fitting line because this is a manic movie filled with characters who want nothing but to get a view from the top, only to find themselves stuck again at the bottom.

Set in the 70s, lifelong con man Irving Rosenfeld (Christian Bale) wants a better life, no matter how good he has it -- and he's got it pretty good. He's over weight and balding with a ridiculously bad combover, but his self confidence makes him a rock star confidence man. He has fallen head over heels for Sydney Prosser (Amy Adams), a highly determined and free spirited woman that becomes the peanut butter to his jelly.

Together they have a good con going, masquerading as banking partners with international connections. They hustle criminals and desperate fools, promising a big return on a small down payment.

But Irving is also married to another train wreck, Rosalyn, who is played by Jennifer Lawrence in a smoldering and electric performance. She is like kryptonite to poor Irving. He's miserable with her. She's toxic and he knows it. But he just can't walk away from her and not just because he's feels responsible for his adopted son. He's addicted to her as much as he is addicted to the thrill of ripping people off.

Then there is Bradley Cooper, who is fantastic as a clown of an FBI agent, whose overeagerness leads to nothing but ignorant decisions.The allure of the bigger fish is always more appealing than the one he has just reeled in. When he manages to catch Irving and Sydney in the act, he turns the tables on them by having them help the FBI take down corrupt politicians, leading them to target Mayor Carmine Polito (Jeremy Renner), a guy who just wants to rebuild Atlantic City and gets caught in this ridiculous sting operation.

The cast is amazing from top to bottom and they're all playing wildly delusional characters. Christian Bale gives fun and surprising in-depth performance as the con that gets in over his head because no one listens to his warnings. Bradley Cooper, sporting a perm, is hilarious as he tries to control everything and be "the man". But if anyone steals the show it's Jennifer Lawrence, who's manic scenes are both hilarious and sexy.

David O. Russell gets incredible performances from his cast and he's working from a mostly great screenplay by Eric Singer, but "American Hustle" goes through its share of growing pains on its way to being a pretty fantastic movie. Early on, the pacing is bogged down with a lot of unnecessary voice overs from Bale, Adams, and Cooper. It feels like they are going for a "Goodfellas" vibe but it doesn't work, mostly because absolutely nothing is said in the narration that couldn't be said or explained with dialogue and actions between the characters.

And the ending feels a little unsatisfying because after all the build up, you may expect more of a sucker punch at the end, or at least the pay off of the reveal of a long con. But the rushed ending isn't enough to ruin what is an incredibly fun, energetic and hellaciously entertaining movie.

Rating: Rated R for language including some sexual references

Running time: 2 hours 18 minutes

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