Over the past couple of years, director David O. Russell has become the name to go to for ensemble directing. He has directed Melissa Leo, Christian Bale and Jennifer Lawrence in Oscar winning performances and showed us that Robert DeNiro is not just a Focker.
After his hit last year with "Silver Linings Playbook," it's no wonder the buzz is surrounding him and his cast this year tackling the story concerning the FBI ABSCAM operation of the late 70s / early 80s in "American Hustle."
Using much of his own entourage that he's formed over the past couple of years, O. Russell uses them to tell the story of con artists Irving Rosenfeld, played to manic perfection by Christian Bale and Sydney Prosser, another brilliant performance from the under appreciated Amy Adams. Irving is married to the irritable and anxiety ridden Rosalyn, played with comedic confidence by the always enchanting Jennifer Lawrence. When Irving and Sydney fall in love and begin to con together, their act is interrupted when they are arrested by Richie DiMaso, played by Bradley Cooper.
In exchange for their release, DiMaso asks for their help in taking down four other con artists. Other key players who will become entangled in their web are Carmine Polito, an always pleasant Jeremy Renner, an FBI secretary, and Pete Musane, a mobster that Rosalyn befriends after an encounter with Sydney.
O. Russell has a great plot and a great cast here. However, what unravels in the 2 hours and 9 minutes that "Hustle" takes to play out feels slow and drawn out. Exciting moments pop up every now and again and the presence of Ms. Lawrence always instills more laughter, albeit with a reality show type of humor. Though many will continue to praise the film for its improvisational nature, it was more of a (plot) pacing issue than anything else that led to the film feeling as one of the more static films of the year.
Again, enough praise cannot be placed upon Mr. Bale and Ms. Lawrence, tackling roles each has not had the opportunity to approach before.
Though the film is no Argo, expect Oscar voters to throw nominations "Hustle's" way come January. Nonetheless, "Hustle" is not a bad film, not by far, but it is definitely one that can be equally enjoyed on the small screen rather than the big screen.
American Hustle is currently playing worldwide.