“American Hustle” reunites writer-director David O. Russell with his “Silver Linings Playbook” stars Bradley Cooper, Jennifer Lawrence and an uncredited Robert De Niro and the result is undeniably one of the very best films of the year. They are joined by an almost unrecognizable Christian Bale, Amy Adams, Jeremy Renner (with a hairdo that begs him to play Liberace) and a host of other stellar talents who all give Oscar worthy performances. These performances paired with a sharp yet quirky script make this often hilarious and somewhat fictionalized account of the FBI’s ABSCAM sting operation a must-see that’s sure to receive some gold statuettes.
The movie’s faded film stock, fabulous costumes, hairstyles and art direction along with its Martin Scorsese-style soundtrack totally immerse us into its late 1970’s setting. The completely silent opening with Irving Rosenfeld (Bale) painstakingly applying and blending a bad toupee with an even more unsightly comb-over is as funny as it is uncomfortable. It’s also a terrific introduction to a world of characters where nothing and no one is what they seem to be. Irving and his sexy partner Sydney (Adams) are busted con artists forced into helping FBI agent Richie DiMaso (a curly headed Bradley Cooper) bring down some bigger fish. Their initial focus explodes into a scenario that involves a phony Arab sheik (Michael Pena), a New Jersey mayor (Renner), D.C. politicians and the mob.
Every actor from the stars to a dynamite Elizabeth Rohm as the mayor’s wife, a woefully put-upon Louis C.K. as Richie’s superior and all the rest are perfectly cast. Yet it is Russell’s Oscar winning Best Actress Jennifer Lawrence who hands-down steals every scene she is in and proves herself a heavy contender for the Supporting Actress crown with this outing. As Irving’s troubled, neglected, deliciously lovable and somehow illogically logical wife Rosalyn, she is laugh-out-loud funny, spot-on authentic and rivetingly unforgettable.
“American Hustle” is part comedy, part drama, part crime caper and all David O. Russell. It is also off-beat American filmmaking at its finest.