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Movie review: ‘American Hustle’ is reminiscent of the great, 70s crime films

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American Hustle

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Grade: A

There’s this vibe that is felt throughout David O. Russell’s new film, “American Hustle,” which expands nationwide on Dec. 20. And that vibe is a good one, a darn good one. From the retro Columbia Pictures logo to the typography to Christian Bale’s bad comb over and the crazy clothing worn by all, Russell’s latest has all the makings of an excellent crime film one might expect from Martin Scorsese.

“Mean Streets” comes to mind while watching Russell’s film, in terms of color and lighting. But unlike that film, “American Hustle” has a more comedic twist to it – a very clever one at that, too.

“American Hustle” is also filled with plenty of music, as one might expect out of a Russell film. In “The Fighter,” some of his selection was very on-the-nose (i.e. the choice of “Back in the Saddle Again” to show Mark Wahlberg’s return). In “Silver Linings Playbook,” there was one awkward scene where Led Zeppelin’s “What Is and What Should Never Be” is played over an argument. Here, the music appears in the right spots, and none of it is painfully obvious. Jennifer Lawrence’s sing-along to “Live and Let Die” is just one of the film’s brilliant uses of songs, and it comes at a key point in her character’s development.

Russell doesn’t go the easy route by turning this into a nostalgia piece for those who lived in the era. The 70s is just a backdrop for this wild and crazy heist film.

Loosely based on the ABSCAM sting, Irving Rosenfeld (Bale) is a brilliant con man who meets the beautiful Sydney Prosser (Amy Adams) one day at a party. Together, they partner for some great scams. But this latest might be the biggest of them all, as they are forced to partner with FBI agent Richie DiMaso (Bradley Cooper), who is looking to bust the New Jersey mayor (Jeremy Renner) and some congressmen.

Each character has his or her own tragic background, and you might find yourself loving and – at the same time – hating every single one of them. In the opening scene, Bale puts on his fake hair – only to have it messed up later on. His crazy wife, Rosalyn (Lawrence), whom he describes as “the Picasso of passive-aggressive karate,” hates him, and there’s a feeling she could turn on him at any second. Sydney finds herself attracted to both Richie and Irving. But don’t let this reviewer tell you all the twists and turns contained in Russell’s film; you should go see it for yourself.

The acting is superb from all involved, with high props going to Bale and Lawrence, who steal every scene in which they’re featured. The film is full of twists and turns, almost too many for the viewer to handle. But that does not stop “American Hustle” from being one of the best and most entertaining rides of the year.

Click here for showtimes at Cinemark 14 in Chico.

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