Director David O. Russell (The Fighter, Silver Linings Playbook) has hit pay dirt once again with the fictionalized account of the Abscam debacle in “American Hustle which took place in late 70’s and early 80’s. But although we are dealing with fiction for the most part, we are reminded right from the start that “Some of this actually happened.”
Irving Rosenfeld (Christian Bale) is a con mans, con man, and with the help of Sydney (Amy Adams), a deceitful woman with a fake English accent, and a claim to London banking connections, they become the Batman and Robin of scammers. The main swindle is some type of loan hoax where they take $5000 from investors with the promise of returning $50,000. Sound too good to be true ─ it is; they pocket the $5000 and disappear. The loan gig seems to be going pretty good until undercover FBI agent Richie DiMaso (Bradley Cooper) pops them while securing a loan. Sydney, who took the check from DiMaso is locked up and is looking at time, but DiMaso figures that he is dealing with small fish and makes a deal: He wants Mayor Carmine Polito (Jeremy Renner) to get caught taking a bribe from Irv and Sydney under the pretense that an Arab Sheik wants to revamp Atlantic City. Polito, who actually cares about his constituents, figures that many jobs will be created and he takes the bribe from the scammers.
DiMaso is not satisfied though. He catches an adrenaline rush from doing the deal and now he wants to go after some crooked congressmen who like suitcases with money. The congressmen are baited and taped, but now someone else wants in on the deal. The mob from Miami contacts DiMaso and they would like to meet the sheik. A meeting is set up at a restaurant where DiMaso, Irv, and Sydney suddenly find themselves with a big time gangster played by none other than Robert DeNiro. Irv’s heart starts palpitating because he now knows that he is in way over his head. An out strategy must be developed before they all end up dead.
Watching this movie, I felt like I was viewing a “Goodfellas” for con men without all of the violence. The dialog is very witty and at times it borders on hilarious. Special mention has to made of the over the top hairstyles the main characters are sporting; Christian Bale with the mother of all comb overs; Cooper with curls, courtesy of a perm; and Renner with the Mt. Rushmore of pompadours. The acting by all involved is excellent, especially Bale as the pudgy, combed over con. Jennifer Lawrence is a stand out as Irv’s semi-psychotic wife and Cooper does a fine job as the wired DiMaso. The outstanding sound track of the movie will transport you right back to the discos of 70’s (that is if you were around in the 70’s). This movie received 7 Golden Globe nominations, and it is deserving of every on. Big thumbs up on this one.
My Rating: 5 of 5 Comb Overs (with glue).