American Hustle (2013)

American Hustle (2013)

Following up the triumphs of 2010s The Fighter and 2012s Silver Linings Playbook is no small task for any directors, even one such as David O Russel. His track record speaks for itself, and in American Hustle he has created a beautifully acted ensemble comedy. Yet as a follow up to his previous work, American Hustle falls inexplicably short.

Set at the height of the 1970s, and loosely based around the ABSCAM scandal, American Hustle focuses on conmen Irving Rosenfeld (Christian Bale) and Sydney Prosser (Amy Adams) who are strong armed into helping Bradley Cooper’s FBI Agent Rich Di Masio set up a complex and intricate operation to catch a number of corrupt politicians, most notably Jeremy Renner’s Mayor Carmine Polito.

The film plays fast and loose with historical facts, opening with the caption ‘Some of these events actually happened,’ before opening on Christian Bale with one of the best comb overs in recent history. While historical accuracy with regards to the ABSCAM scandal is somewhat shady, the film is incredibly faithful in reproducing the seventies. The decade explodes out of the screen, the sets dressed beautifully, the soundtrack belting out hits of the era. And the hair… the hair styles in American Hustle are simply amazing, and whilst Bale’s previously mentioned comb over steals the movie, Bradley Cooper’s perm deserves a honourable mention.  The film brings the seventies to life, pulls you in, and doesn’t let go.

The cast are extraordinary, all of them putting in great performances, Amy Adams’ English accent is near impeccable, and Jeremy Renner’s supporting role as a New Jersey mayor is brilliant… but the stand out is Jennifer Lawrence as Irving’s wife. Jennifer Lawrence may seem to be the in thing right now, receiving praise for every role she takes; but the fact is she really is that good, she steals nearly every scene in American Hustle, belting out ‘Live and Let Die’ after setting up her husband is a particular highlight. Lawrence is surely a shoe in for the Best Supporting Actress Oscar; there is only one thing better than her in this film, ands that is Bale’s comb over.

A brilliant ensemble piece, with great comedy, and excellent acting from its start. Why then, is there something that doesn’t sit quite right about the film with me? It has received lavish reviews from elsewhere, but I am not convinced, it stands out against the majority of other motion pictures, but next to The Fighter and Silver Linings Playbook can only be put in last place, never reaching the heights of its predecessors – something about the film just didn’t click for me in the same way as Russel’s previous work. I appreciate the direction, the photography, the story, and most of all the acting, but it seemed to me that something was missing, something that should bring it all together.

It might be that I went into this film with my expectations incredibly high, raised both by the praise lavished upon American Hustle and Russel’s previous work, and with a clear mind I may have felt differently about the film, and perhaps on a re-watch, I will. It is a remarkable film, and although it far outstrips the majority of films I’ve seen this year, compared to Russel’s back catalogue I found American Hustle somewhat lacking. It is in no means a bad film. It is a very good one, but despite its ability to bring the seventies right off the screen into the theatre, the skill of the actors, the comedy, and the story, something is amiss. 7/10

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