Based loosely on true events, American Hustle tells the story of con artist, Irving Rosenfeld (Christian Bale) and his lover Sydney Prosser (Amy Adams) who are forced to work with FBI agent Richie DiMaso (Bradley Cooper). Their project, titled ABSCAM, involves the mayor of Camden, New Jersey, Carmine Polito (Jeremy Renner), as well as Rosenfeld’s wife Rosalyn (Jennifer Lawrence).
Combining the majority of the casts from The Fighter and Silver Linings Playbook, American Hustle seems like an absolute knockout at first glance. While it’s still quite good, unfortunately it doesn’t live up to the extremely high expectations following David O. Russell’s previous work.
Nevertheless, the performances in American Hustle are fantastic. Jennifer Lawrence steals the show as Rosalyn Rosenfeld by giving us something fresh but familiar, and reassuring us of her status as one of Hollywood’s brightest young stars. Bale, Cooper and Adams are also quite good, delivering some memorable and goofy character work as some of the dumbest con artists you will ever see. The performances are hilarious and brave, and provide audiences with the perfect distraction from an otherwise mediocre story.
Their dedication to every small detail in their characters, from their clothes to their accents to their hair, elevates the film from being just another goofy, crime comedy to something slightly more significant. Robert DeNiro does show up in a small and clichéd role as a mob boss, which never completely works. Comedian Louis C.K. is also a scene-stealer with a small role as Bradley Cooper’s boss and the only sane human being in the entire film.
The performances may be good, but American Hustle struggles with its narrative. The stakes within the con never feel significant and the entire thing feels like it’s attempting to mimic a Martin Scorsese film instead of honouring him. The plotting and pacing is messy, with an ending that feels rushed in an already lengthy film. Sure, it’s frequently funny but it seems like the story was sacrificed for humour. This hurts the film in the long run, leaving us with something that is funny with good performances, but feels somewhat forgettable and minor.
It’s not quite “American Bullshit” (the film’s original title), and while American Hustle is slightly underwhelming, it is still solid film.
Is American Hustle opening weekend worthy?
Yes. Expectations were high for David O. Russell’s follow up to Silver Linings Playbook and although American Hustle doesn’t live up to that, it’s still very funny and has some great performances. It’s a tad messy with its narrative, but that doesn’t hurt it enough to make it unwatchable. Don’t rush, but check it out.