Director: David O. Russell
Screenwriters: David O. Russell and Eric Singer
Runtime: 138 mins.
Australian release date: 12 December 2013
In the late ‘70s the FBI set up an operation initially targeting the trafficking of stolen property; later it developed into an infamous corruption investigation known as Abscam, which pursued corrupt public officials and resulted in a number of arrests, including a US senator and members of the House of Representatives. David O. Russell’s American Hustle gives us a thoroughly entertaining version of this sting - some of which, as stated at the start of the film, “actually happened”! Russell brilliantly succeeds in bringing this tale of deceit, cunning and out-of-control mayhem to the silver screen using a very fine stable of actors, many of whom have worked under his direction previously.
When Irving Rosenfeld (Christian Bale) a small-time con-man with a highly intricate comb-over, befriends ex-stripper Sydney Prosser (Amy Adams), they set up a number of dodgy financial scams; Sydney develops a fake aristocratic British persona and adopts a wardrobe of slit to the waist frocks, that the ‘marks’ find highly irresistible. But, as often happens, they eventually hit on the wrong guy and come undone when they cross FBI agent Richie DiMaso (Bradley Cooper). Like Irving and Sydney, Richie is also largely a construct with a fake hairdo. He’s extremely ambitious though, and he forces them to ensnare the mayor of New Jersey, Carmine Polito (Jeremy Renner), in a scam involving a bogus Arab sheik and a possible deal with the Miami mafia. Polito sports yet another fine hair creation, one of the best rockabilly ‘dos’ you’re ever likely to see outside of The Stray Cats (Google ‘em!) In an uncredited role, the mobsters are fronted by an extremely sinister boss played by Robert De Niro, who is keen to open up Atlantic City as a gambling haven using funds provided by the sheikh. Rounding off a superb cast is Jennifer Lawrence as Rosalyn, Irving’s ditsy, vengeful wife and a loose cannon in the midst of all the chaos.
Showcasing the best in production design (Judy Becker) and a stunning retro soundtrack by Danny Elfman, American Hustle will undoubtedly be nominated for many Oscar awards. Russell will surely be on the list for his direction and script (co-written with Eric Warren Singer). This is a film that leaves you quite exhausted as the plot thickens and the tension rises… exhausted, but satisfied. Of the cast, it is difficult to single out exactly who will be nominated, but I am putting my bet on Adams and Lawrence, who both deliver the best performances of their careers; Lawrence, in particular, is just blistering in one scene where she discusses her failing marriage with Bale. Adams’s outfits may well garner a gong for Michael Wilkinson’s costume design and Bale’s comb-over sequence will go down as one of the best kitsch moments on screen, so maybe the makeup department will be up for a gong, too. American Hustle will definitely go all the way to the Dolby Theatre on Sunday 2 March 2014, for this is one of the best films of the year. Don’t miss it!