Film Review: 'American Hustle'
Opened: 1 January 2014 (UK)
Cast: Christian Bale, Bradley Cooper, Amy Adams, Jeremy Renner and Jennifer Lawrence
Director: David O.Russell
Producers: Charles Roven, Richard Suckle, Megan Ellison
Stylistically flawless in 70s chic, American Hustle brings together a group of west coast dirt bags for the ultimate bust. Set in the early days of Atlantic City gambling, the state of New Jersey is on the cusp of economic recovery and there is money to be made, by fair means or foul! The movie opens part way through the story with an apparently tense exchange between the three main leads of this sizeable ensemble cast. Sadly the intensity is lacking and of the three actors only Christian Bale, as small time con artist Irving, manages to establish his character from the very start leaving the film to drag somewhat drearily for quite some time. Given the repeat use of cast from his previous movies it seems highly likely that Director David O. Russell has had his pick of actors and decided to go with established talent that he likes, including the wonderful Amy Adams and the usually durable Bradley Cooper. Neither of these really hit their mark leaving their scenes as pieces of flat play acting that produce a few giggles and sometimes even titillate, while never truly satisfying. How on earth Cooper’s unhinged comic lothario Richie DiMaso has progressed so far in life is surely a whole terrible movie in itself.
As the central foil of the movie Christian Bale is meticulous and unflappable, carrying the whole thing with calm gravitas and unexpected comedy. It falls to Jennifer Lawrence to completely steal the limelight right as the deliciously trampy Rosalyn. What in the script must be a couple of lines, a dance for one in marigold gloves and the worst microwave demonstration ever recorded is delivered as a show stopping performance anticipating ‘best supporting’ plaudits: Live and Let Die will never sound the same again! Notable support is given by Jeremy Renner, no doubt looking to widen his range from gruff military type, here cast as the warm hearted mayor, but an equally unnecessary cameo from Robert De Niro is a cheap throw away device to emphasise his character’s importance.
Knitting the movie together is an eclectic disco era soundtrack spliced with jazzy numbers which keeps the pace when the over populated story bloats and occasionally drifts too far from the point. Ultimately all the cravats and smooth jazz of the east coast cannot distract from the over wrought treatment of the movie. Cramming in too many over indulged characters and possibly with delusions of things grander than itself it is a real shame this tawdry tale of confidence tricksters and underhand deals was not tightened up and properly cast, as it could have been a true classic.
For all of my proclamations about the shortcomings of this jolly New Jersey jaunt it is nonetheless enjoyable and lovingly peppered with the director’s signature black comedy style. In keeping with his previous work the tone appears to be aimed at a heady mix of drama and comedy but this difficult marriage is never quite achieved and certainly does not flow like his best work, Silver Linings Playbook and Three Kings.
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