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'American Hustle' review: David O Russell's examination of the American Dream

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American Hustle

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Looking for a crazy, wild, and hilarious roller coaster ride through the twisted American dream? Well, director David O Russell (Silver Linings Playbook, Three Kings, The Fighter) delivers in spades with this partially true crime dramedy of con men, FBI agents, mobsters, and politicians. Not only is Russell’s latest effort easily one of the best films of 2013 but will also most likely become a force to be reckoned with in the upcoming award season.

Set in 1978, the story follows a bloated and balding con man named Irving Rosenfeld (Christian Bale), who makes his money on measly dry cleaners and simple art forgeries. That is…until he meets the beautiful Sydney Prosser (Amy Adams), for which they not only click instantly but she also assists Rosenfeld in accomplishing more ambitious scam operations. Everything seems to be going fine for the New Jersey Bonny and Clyde until they are busted by the high-energy and viciously self-serving FBI agent Richie DiMaso (Bradley Cooper).

In order to avoid jail-time, DiMaso strikes a deal with the couple in which they assist the FBI in arresting much bigger targets, specifically going after a good-natured New Jersey mayor (Jeremy Renner) and other politicians by duping them into a fake scheme involving FBI employees posing as fictional Middle Eastern sheikh looking for political asylum.

Further complicating matters is DiMasso falling in love with Prosser and Rosenfeld struggling to maintain his relationship with his son that is hardly made easier by his younger, spoiled, and strongly opinionated wife Rosalyn (Jennifer Lawrence). With the stress of the complex swindle and heated relationship drama, it’s enough to make anybody’s heart give out, which is what happens to Irving at times, and who can blame him?

With so much drama and rich material to work with, a tight well-rounded cast is a necessity and thankfully, Russell’s got their area covered and then some, with most gathered from his past two films. We got Oscar-nominees Christian Bale and Amy Adams from “The Fighter”, and from “Silver Linings Playbook” are Jennifer Lawrence, Bradley Cooper, and Robert De Niro.

Christian Bale is barely recognizable with his combed over hair, slimy appearance, and 40-pounds that he gained for the part, making him resemble a Grand Theft Auto character brought to life. Amy Adams once again proves her versatility balancing seductiveness with sincere sweetness while Cooper manages to be both interesting yet totally despicable at the same time. However, it is Lawrence who ends being the true showstopper in her portrayal of the either extremely fearlessly foolish or subtly clever Rosalyn (depends on your interpretation) and once again demonstrates that she is one of the best actresses working in Hollywood today (The odds may ever be in her favor for a Best Supporting Actress Nomination).

With most of the comedy stemming from the audience in awe of the ridiculous actions taken by the characters in order to find happiness or fulfill their ambitions, the film also provides biting insightful examinations on the American Dream and the pitfalls of ambition itself. Not only that, but there are some pretty powerful drama scenes that are so intensely acted that they can be legitimately hard to watch. From the ultra-intense sequence where Rosenfeld and DiMasso try to con a mobster to an unsettling rendition of “Live and Let Die” by Wings, audiences will feel far from hustled when the closing credits roll around.

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