Directed by: David O. Russell
Any film that starts out with the leading title caption “Some of the things in this film actually happened.” Has got to be a great film, then when you add A-list stars like Christian Bale, Bradley Cooper, Amy Adams, Jeremy Renner, Jennifer Lawrence, then peppers the rest of the cast with the likes of Louis C.K., Michael Peña, Anthony Zerbe, and Robert De Niro (in an uncredited role) is going to be a great film, and yep, it totally was. Ostensibly a retelling of events that (may or may not have) lead up to the Abscam “sting” of several legislators in the last ‘70s & early ‘80s.
The film brilliantly tells the story of a small-time con man named Irving Rosenfeld (Bale), who along with his equally cunning and seductive “British” partner Sydney Prosser (Adams) are trapped by the FBI and then leveraged into working for them by agent Richie DiMaso. DiMaso (Cooper) who is something of a loose cannon and pushes them into a world of Jersey powerbrokers and mafiosa that’s every bit as dangerous as it is enchanting. One of their targets is Atlantic City mayor Carmine Polito (Renner) who is a passionate, volatile, New Jersey political operator who finds himself caught between the con-artists and Feds. Add to this mix is Rosenfeld’s unpredictable wife Rosalyn (Lawrence) who winds up being the one to pull the thread that brings the entire world crashing down.
At first, Rosenfeld is just a small-time scammer who run a chain of dry-cleaning shops, sells fake art, and pretends to find loans for people. When he hooks up with Prosser (who is from New York, but effects a British accent) he manages to ramp up his business dealings because of her ability to sell the pitch. The film is engaging, dramatic, and thoroughly engrossing all the way through (truthfully, until one of the characters casually mentions Abscam about half-way through the film we never even realized how much this tale swirled around actual events.) Every one of the leads in this film turns in an outstanding performance (both Bale and Cooper are nearly unidentifiable in their roles as they perform so against type). Lawrence proves that she totally deserves that Academy Award, and Adams proves that she too deserves one.
This is an amazing film that shows the foibles of both the “Good Guys” and the “Bad Guys” and what happens when each of them loses sight of what their respective roles are and become lost in the roles that that they finds themselves playing as they move through their respective lives.
Robert J. Sodaro has been reviewing films for some 30 years. During that time, his movie reviews and articles have appeared in numerous print publications, as well as on the web. Subscribe to receive regular articles and movie reviews.