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Friday
Dec132013

Movie Review: "American Hustle"

Sony/Columbia(NEW YORK) -- David O. Russell is one our best storytellers.  Period.
 
Take the message that begins his latest film, American Hustle: “Some of This Actually Happened.”
 
Score!  We have a film about a con that doesn’t con the audience about this being "based on a true story" or "actual events."  How refreshing.
 
Loosely based on the FBI’s late 1970s ABSCAM government corruption sting, a nearly unrecognizable and consistently fantastic Christian Bale plays Irving Rosenfeld.  A lifelong con man, scamming comes easy to Irving -- so easy, he was able to earn enough money to start a legitimate dry-cleaning businesses.  But he can’t leave well enough alone, so he also sells fake art and runs a phony financing scam in which he gets chumps to give him thousands of dollars, guaranteeing thousands more in return.  He never delivers the thousands more.
 
Business really picks up when Irving meets his soul mate, Sydney Prosser (Amy Adams), a stripper from Albuquerque who knows how to put on an impressive British accent.  Two peas in a pod, they partner up and off they go.  But there's a bit of a problem: Irving’s wife, Rosalyn.  Played by Jennifer Lawrence, Rosalyn is a klutzy, spoiled spitfire who's just full of surprises, and while Irving has little interest in her, he's devoted to their adopted six-year-old son.
 
Enter Bradley Cooper’s hot-headed FBI Agent Rich DiMaso, a man who perms his hair and is desperate to make a name for himself at the Bureau.  How’s he going to do that?  By busting Irving and Sydney and recruiting them to, in essence, entrap politicians into taking bribes.
 
The way Bale, Cooper and Adams play off one another is one of this year’s biggest treats at the movies.  Another treat: Jennifer Lawrence.  Her coquettish, layered performance jumps off the screen, stealing every scene she’s in.
 
Jeremy Renner can’t get enough credit for the playing the kind-hearted mayor of Camden, N.J., Carmine Polito.  Even though he’s now been nominated for two Oscars -- for The Hurt Locker and The Town -- when it comes to publicity, Renner tends to be overshadowed by names like Bale, Cooper, Lawrence and Adams. His performance in American Hustle is just as noteworthy as theirs.
 
Director and co-writer David O. Russell deserves all the credit in the world for creating a story, characters and environment in which his actors could truly get lost.  Bale, Adams, Cooper and Lawrence, all of whom have worked with Russell before to great success in the films The Fighter and Silver Linings Playbook, have incredible chemistry with their director, making one hope they continue to work together for as long as they're able.
 
American Hustle shows us that while we all strive for something better, that something better is often rooted in love.  This is an outstanding piece of filmmaking that should not be missed.
 
 Five out of five stars.

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ABC News Radio