With all of the hype surrounding David O. Russell’s latest directorial vision “American Hustle,” anything less than a stellar performance by cast and crew would be considered a failure, especially considering all of the successes he has had in the past. However, the hype proved to be well worth it thanks to an all-star cast and superb plotline.
Based on a real sting operation to nab crooked New Jersey politicians accepting bribes for casino investments, “American Hustle” stars Christian Bale as a con man in the employment of the FBI tasked with bringing down corrupt officials. The film is one part “Ocean’s Eleven” and one part “Donnie Brasco” mixed in with all the glitz and glam of 1970s Atlantic City. With its dry humor and wit throughout, the film can be considered an instant-classic gangster lick.
Once again rising star Jenifer Lawrence appears with Bradley Cooper following the magic they created together in 2012’s “Silver Linings Playbook.” Cooper stars as an FBI agent working with Bale to make sure he follows through in aiding the bureau’s investigation, while Lawrence is Bale’s eccentric, hard-talking wife who vies for his attention in competition with his mistress.
One has to wonder if this is the beginning of a dynasty for Lawrence, Cooper and Russell – this is their second big hit in a row. Audiences have responded well to the two blockbuster films this trio has been a part of, and critics gave several Oscar nominations (and one win for Lawrence as Best Actress) to their previous film. Point being, critics and fans should hope and pray this team sticks together for more films in the future.
Perhaps equaling the chemistry Lawrence and Cooper have is the relationship that con man Bale has with his romantic partner Amy Adams, who plays a con artist and Bale’s mistress. Their dynamic helps the film become two dimensional, exploring not just crime but also a love story between two unlikely “misfits” who rediscover their purpose in life through each other. Their relationship adds a deeper context to a film that on the surface is lighthearted. Adams and Bale together have an instant connection, not unlike that of Lawrence and Cooper, but in the end it is the former that steals the show.
Two separate love triangles evolve over the course of the film, with Adams and Lawrence in fierce competition for Bale’s affection while Bale and Cooper are at odds over the elegant and curiously intelligent Adams. In the end, like what is stated often throughout the movie, everyone ends up conning each other, and the real con artistry is always in how everyone tricks themselves.
“American Hustle” is unsurprisingly a riveting tale coupled with a cast of who’s who in Hollywood. What is surprising is the degree of depth it holds. It is not just your average con artist movie, but a story of love in unlikely circumstances.
Brett Montana can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.