Friday, December 20, 2013

American Hustle Movie Review

Bradley Cooper as Richie DiMaso in American Hustle

Do the Hustle! 

"Some of this actually happened." David O'Russell merely made it look so good, that we wish it all did. American Hustle cements itself as the year's second best film, taking its audience on a wild, comedy-infused roller coaster ride through the 1970's... featuring some of the best writing (O'Russell, Eric Warren Singer) and on-screen chemistry (literally the entire cast) on display in years. My unofficial "smile barometer" was pushing the mercury throughout the film, building momentum alongside O'Russell's perfectly paced direction. American Hustle is all about ambition, desire, greed and relationships... The American dream, minus the bullshit.

Rotten Tomatoes Plot: A fictional film set in the alluring world of one of the most stunning scandals to rock our nation, American Hustle tells the story of brilliant con man Irving Rosenfeld (Christian Bale), who along with his equally cunning and seductive British partner Sydney Prosser (Amy Adams) is forced to work for a wild FBI agent Richie DiMaso (Bradley Cooper). DiMaso pushes them into a world of Jersey power brokers and mafia that's as dangerous as it is enchanting. Jeremy Renner is Carmine Polito, the passionate, volatile, New Jersey political operator caught between the con-artists and Feds. Irving's unpredictable wife Rosalyn (Jennifer Lawrence) could be the one to pull the thread that brings the entire world crashing down. Like David O. Russell's previous films, American Hustle defies genre, hinging on raw emotion, and life and death stakes.

What’s Best: O'Russell is fast becoming Mr. December; although it doesn't hurt, having some of Hollywood's best and brightest at your disposal. Adams & Bale worked with O'Russell in The Fighter; while Cooper, Robert De Niro and Lawrence return from our top film of last year Silver Linings Playbook: That's a lot of talent in one place, with a built-in familiarity to boot. The writing is superb, a blend of comedy and raw passion rarely seen in the same movie. You couldn't find a better quartet in all of Hollywood; and there doesn't appear to an ounce of ego to be had between the lot. Factor in a Martin Scorsese feel + a soundtrack "to die for," and you begin to understand why I like it so much.

What’s Not: You realize I'm reaching here, don't ya? Lawrence comes close to rivaling Sharon Stone's brilliant turn as Ginger in Scorsese's Casino; but even great acting can't hide the fact that she's a good 15 years younger than her fellow cast-mates. It's not a negative, mind you; but it's still noticeable.

Outside of that, one could argue that American Hustle peaks a little too soon. I'm referring to the mind-blowing goodness that is Carmine's party, where our heroes come in contact with mobster Victor Tellegio (played brilliantly by De Niro.) Everything seems to be spinning out of control; but O'Russell pulls on the reins, squeezing another half an hour or so of goodness into Hustle's 138-minute runtime.

Best Line: Irving describes his love affair with Sydney in poetic terms, 'I felt like we had a secret,' as they share an intimate moment inside (of all places) a dry cleaning line. That's fine and dandy; but that doesn't come close to Irving's delightful description of wife Rosalyn, 'The Picasso of passive-aggressive karate,' or words of wisdom to Mayor Carmine, 'Always take a favor over money: I think Jesus said that.'

Overall: It's not often that one movie showcases so many compelling relationships; but American Hustle has several worth bragging about. On top of that, they're almost all interchangeable. Irving & Sydney, Sydney & Richie, Richie & Irving, Irving & Carmine... I could go on and on. Best of all, each dynamic is different, ranging from lust, 'We fight and we fuck,' to downright disdain (Richie & his immediate supervisor played impeccably by Louis C.K.... Will they ever finish that story about ice fishing?) You could build an entire movie around each of them.

There's also plenty of sizzle, courtesy of an unpredictable story that jumps from funny to intense and back again. Moments of raw intensity such as Lawrence's burst of physical house cleaning to "Live and Let Die," and a nightclub dance session between Adams and Cooper, that ends in the former's screaming while straddling a toilet are too powerful for words. By the time, De Niro enters the picture as a dangerous Florida mobster, you may be too exhausted to hang on for the movie's tidy ending. Don't be surprised to see Mr. December collecting some long overdue hardware at this year's Oscars.