It’s amazing what you can do with a great cast. In some instances, you can take a group of talented actors and build a story solely around them. And while this is no guarantee for a great movie (see The Counselor), it does provide enough of a framework to make something worthwhile more times than not.
Director David O. Russell (Silver Linings Playbook, The Fighter) probably knows the power of the cast better than anyone, because he’s worked with most of this cast before. This time around, he takes his acting All-stars to the glorious late-1970s and engulfs them into a loosely based tale of the FBI’s ABSCAM investigation. It’s worth noting that the costumes, soundtrack, and cinematography for this film are all great… but none of those things are why this movie could compete for an Academy Award.
Christian Bale and Amy Adams reunite from The Fighter to play two con-artists who fall in love, despite the fact that Bale’s Irving Rosenfeld has a family of his own. Watching Bale’s hairy gut and listening to his heavy Brooklyn accent makes you almost forget this is the same guy that played Batman. Adams brings out her ferocity and sex appeal like never before as Sydney Prosser, perhaps the biggest hustler in the entire film. After the two lovers’ shady investment firm is taken down by the FBI, they are forced to work with federal agent Richie DeMasso to bust other con-artists. Bradley Cooper (Silver Linings Playbook, The Hangover) plays the greedy Agent DeMasso at his angry and hyperactive best.
The dynamic of those three characters as they attempt to hustle the good hearted, but double dealing, mayor of Atlantic City is what drives the plot. Jeremy Renner (Bourne Legacy, Avengers) plays Mayor Carmine Polito with so much genuine spunk that you can’t help but root for him. What drives the movie most, however, is Jennifer Lawrence (Hunger Games, Silver Linings Playbook) who channels up perhaps her best performance yet as Irving Rosenfeld’s loud, obnoxious, and unpredictable wife Rosalyn. Are back-to-back Oscars in the near future for her?
If the film falls flat to some, it is because of a plot which at times becomes a bit convoluted. But overall, there is enough information for the average moviegoer to comprehend. So while American Hustle may not be the smartest film of the year or the most exciting, you’ll be hard pressed to find one with such fun and invigorating performances.
FINAL GRADE: A