David O. Russell got himself on quite a roll with both “The Fighter” (2010) and “Silver Linings Playbook” (2012). Both were hits with audiences and critics alike and won some big awards too. The previews and television commercials for his newest effort, “American Hustle” make it look like he put together another great movie. However, it is one of the oldest cons out there where a trailer to a movie looks good, but the movie itself is not.
“American Hustle” takes place in the late 1970s. Irving Rosenfeld (Christian Bale) is a con man and one of the best and becomes an entrepreneur in the game when he meets and teams up with Sydney Prosser (Amy Adams). When they are forced to put their skills to trapping politicians and members of the mob due to an over ambitious and in over his head FBI agent (Bradley Cooper), they may have bitten off something more than they can chew.
The last two David O. Russell movies have ended up in this column’s top ten at the end of their respective years with “Silver Linings Playbook” coming in at #2 last year and “The Fighter” being the #1 movie in 2010. Obviously the director is very well liked here at Examiner.com, so it is unfortunate to report what a let down “American Hustle” is considering the great films leading up to it. The glue that held those other movies so well together is missing this time out.
To start, one can’t help to recognize how much David O. Russell is trying to channel Martin Scorsese as he was making “American Hustle”. The movie tries to emulate such Scorsese pictures like “Goodfellas” and “Casino”. Multiple characters narrate the movie, it takes place in the past, the mob is involved and even a familiar Scorsese face shows up. What’s missing here is the great flow those other movies had. This movie spends a great deal of time setting events up while the characters have to explain everything that is happening. Scorsese, while he had narration, let those movies unfold in front of us without having to explain every last detail of what was going on.
One element “American Hustle” does have in common with those other movies is it possesses some amazing performances. David O. Russell combined actors he worked with from his previous two movies and put together an impressive cast. Christian Bale, who won an Oscar for his performance in “The Fighter”, is almost unrecognizable in this movie. He immerses himself in this character unlike he has ever done prior in his career. Bradley Cooper shows that his Oscar nomination from last year was no fluke. Jennifer Lawrence steal the show once again, executing a perfect New Jersey accent and is likely to earn another Oscar nomination. Finally, without a doubt, Amy Adams gives the best performance of her career.
Nobody can bat 1.000, David O.’ Russell may have struck out with “American Hustle”, but he can easily bounce back. Many in the audience of an advanced screening in Boca Raton felt the movie was too long and uninteresting and practically bolted out of the theater when the movie came to an end. It is unfortunate that a movie that looked so good can turn out to be such a disappointment. It is rated R for pervasive language, some sexual content and brief violence.