Starring: Christian Bale, Amy Adams, Bradley Cooper
Director: David O. Russell
Running Time: 138 mins
American Hustle is an American film about a pair of con artists who fall into a federal scam after being forced into it by an FBI agent, keen on improving his reputation by uncovering allegations of bribery and corruption in New Jersey.
This is a simply excellent comedy-crime movie, with fantastically funny humour from start to finish, a stylish portrayal of its groovy time period, and a hugely compelling story that goes beyond the main scam and looks in depth at the main players in a brilliantly character-driven film.
David O. Russell’s movies are famous for their brilliant blend of comedy and emotional drama, and this is easily the one that pulls that off with the most success. Seriously, this is a massively funny film, with both a heap of laugh-out-loud moments throughout as well as more subtle humour that satires the real-life Abscam scandal, making this a really enjoyable film to watch.
But this still isn’t a comedy, and the humour definitely doesn’t cheapen the brilliant drama in the story. The main plot, revolving around the con artists’ involvement in this attempt to bring down corruption in politics and the various intricacies and deceptions of the crime is relatively interesting, but what’s most compelling is the story of the characters in this film.
Featuring an ensemble cast, American Hustle looks at the lives of five very imperfect main characters. Much like any Scorsese film, most of them are likeable anti-hero criminals, but what this film does really well is create a fascinating and thrilling story by looking at the tension between them.
There are all sorts of things holding these people together as well as pushing these apart, and throughout the film, you can just feel that they’re all on the tipping point with one another. The relationship between Christian Bale and Jennifer Lawrence’s characters, husband and irritating wife, is particularly interesting and full of life, because it’s not only a pretty realistic presentation of the relationship, but also one that continually bubbles up throughout the story, providing more and more excitement and intrigue from start to finish.
One of the most eye-catching things about this film is how it presents its time period, which is around 1978. Apart from having one of the best soundtracks I’ve ever heard, it shows all the excessive glitz of the 70s as if it’s really stylish, instead of as silly as it actually looks, and that really helps to make this a more wholly engrossing film that pulls you in and shows off a fascinating time period.
Finally, the performances here are also stunning. A-listers like Christian Bale, Bradley Cooper, Jeremy Renner and Jennifer Lawrence all do a fantastic job in their respective roles, and are a joy to watch, but it’s Amy Adams that really stands out here. She plays an American moonlighting as a British woman, and puts on a brilliantly warped accent as well as an all-round fantastic performance that makes her character seem all the more unpredictable and mysterious, creating even more intrigue for you.
Overall, I’ll give American Hustle an 8.6, because it’s not only a hugely entertaining comedy caper, but also a thrillingly intriguing character study with a stylish atmosphere and brilliant performances.