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Movie Review - 'American Hustle' shows brilliance through the art of lying

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'American Hustle'

Rating:
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Con vs. Con – If there were ever a genre I’m a sucker for, it might be those based around crime and all the bad things that go with it. They’re not always the greatest films, but they entertain you in a not so subtle way and have a way of making you laugh and cry at all the wrong times. And for me, it all started with “Goodfellas,” one of my all-time favorite films and one that led me to become a lifelong fan of a genre that mixes up drama like no other. History tells us that, which is why I never mind seeing films like “American Hustle,” come out for they remind us of how the “other side” lives and acts, embellished as it might be.

What’s it about? Based during the late 70’s, early 80’s, the story here follows small-time businessman and part-time conman Irving Rosenfeld (Christian Bale) who gets his joy out of conning people into investing into fake companies and embezzling all their money. His partner was part-time stripper and seductress Sydney Prosser (Amy Adams), who used a fake British accent to help attract these same investors. And for a while, this so-called investment company was quite successful, but when Richie DiMaso (Bradley Cooper) showed up as a potential “mark,” everything changed. Turns out he was an undercover F.B.I. agent who wanted to make a name for himself, so he enlisted Irving and Sydney to help him take down a few other con artists. Problem was, he had no idea what he was doing, thus creating a host of problems for himself, the agency and more importantly the people he was trying to direct. And by the time he ‘got a clue,’ the plan he thought was his all along was turned upside down, sideways and back around again leading to a hilarious conclusion full of twists and turns.

Who was in it? The cast put together for this film appears to be a lot bigger than it is. That can be either an advantage or detriment depending on how they perform, so I was glad director David O. Russell chose Christian Bale to lead the cast. He not only has the chops to do it, he can slide into the background to allow a Bradley Cooper or Amy Adams to make their mark, which they did. Especially Adams, who I admit I’m becoming quite the fan of after another groundbreaking performance. This actress could care less what people may think; choosing roles you would never expect her in and then knocking them out of the park like she did here. I love that and love her for continuing to press the envelope as she is also found in the new Spike Jonze film “Her.”

As for Cooper, what else can I say other than director David O. Russell gets the best out of him, having starred opposite Jennifer Lawrence in last year’s Oscar-winning “Silver Linings Playbook.” That’s a big compliment for an actor many people don’t appreciate given his role in “The Hangover” series. As for Lawrence, I just can’t believe she is this good already after only a few years. It’s remarkable and even in this small role, she stole one or two scenes proving yet again she is much more than the role you see in “The Hunger Games” series. But, in the end, this was Bale’s film in a lot of ways given his physical transformation. He shed that dark cape for a beer gut, solidifying his place in Hollywood as a player to watch not only this award season, but future ones. I was impressed; then again I’m a big fan of his, so call me bias if you want.

Familiar territory – For those that have not watched “The Fighter” and “Silver Linings Playbook,” I implore you to do so as they are two of the better films released over the last decade. Both, written and directed by David O. Russell feature stories that allow you focus in the characters and how they interact with each other, just like in “American Hustle.” Sure, it’s not as if Russell is the first to do that, but to do it as well as he has over the past few years is something to take note of; especially when you can’t name any of his films prior to 2010’s “The Fighter.” I know I couldn’t, which is why I marvel at how he has in three consecutive years now come in with a film that touches people in some unique way. And while this may not be as serious as the prior two, it still was fun to watch and experience for 138 minutes. Plus he brings in a cast that gets your attention one way or another, which is smart. It reminds me of what Martin Scorsese has done over the years with casting supporting actors that can also lead if given the chance. And with it also having that underlying comedic tone, I can easily see it winning the Golden Globe for ‘Best Motion Picture – Comedy of Musical.’

Bottom Line – You may think you have seen the story in “American Hustle” before, but trust me when I say; it wasn’t as enjoyable as it was here. In many ways a film for acting, director David O. Russell continues to impress with yet another hit to keep an eye on this award season and one that I expect many people will wind up telling their friends to go see.

A-

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