American Hustle (2013)

american hustle poster 2013 movie cast
8.0 Overall Score
Story: 7/10
Acting: 9/10
Visuals: 8/10

Strong cast, good script, nice visuals

Takes a bit for the plot to come together

Movie Info

Movie Name:  American Hustle

Studio:  Annapuma Pictures

Genre(s):  Drama

Release Date(s):  December 13, 2013

MPAA Rating:  R


Do the Hustle!

Irving Rosenfeld (Christian Bale) is a conman who has been roped into a big con.  He and his lover Sydney Prosser (Amy Adams) (who poses as an English noble named Lady Edith Greensly) are caught in their game by an eager FBI agent named Richie DiMaso (Bradley Cooper).  DiMaso has bigger plans however and forces Irving and Sydney to go after bigger targets in order to build his name.  When Richie sets his eyes on Camden, New Jersey mayor Carmine Polito (Jeremy Renner), even bigger targets could be brought in.  Going against his boss (Louis C.K.), Richie is out for the big score…now, Sydney, Carmine, Irving, and Irving’s wife Rosalyn (Jennifer Lawrence) are caught in a scam involving Congressmen and mobsters that could send them all to jail or the grave.


It’s gotta be the nail polish!

Directed by David O. Russell, American Hustle took a long time to get to the screen.  Originally called American Bullshit, the movie was in limbo for a few years and the production faced further problems with delays from Christian Bale (Bradley Cooper was originally cast in his role when he couldn’t do it) and Boston Marathon Bombing which locked down shooting around Boston.  The movie was released to positive reviews and received Academy Award nominations for Best Picture, Best Director, Best Actor (Bale), Best Actress (Adams), Best Supporting Actor (Cooper), Best Supporting Actress (Lawrence), Best Original Screenplay, Best Costume Design, Best Film Editing, and Best Production Design (and was a complete shutout).


How many Oscar nominations Amy Adams? Ok, now who in the room has won?

American Hustle is based loosely on the Abscam investigation from the late ’70s and ’80s which brought down a number of high ranking political officials who were trading cash for getting a fake sheikh citizenship in the United States while helping channel his money out of his country.  The story takes a lot of this basic framework for its basis and uses real “characters” from the actual events…but adds drama.  The movie takes a bit of time to get it feet, but a great party scene helps seal the deal on this film.


Microwaves are the devil!

The story has a lot of twists and turns for a big cast.  The framework often goes back and forth in time (common for con stories), and I would say my biggest criticism of the film is that the con doesn’t end up being played as much as the drama at the end.  When a con movie is generally about how the criminals pull it off, this one kind of downplays the switch-up which occurs at the finale for the relationships that the con effects.  It isn’t a bad idea, but I was kind of hoping for more of a “how they pulled it off” scene where they really went into what happened and all the parties involved.  Instead, it mentions what happened and goes into how it affected the relationships of the main characters.


We’re on top of the world!

The characters are really where the movie soars.  It is a great ensemble cast and many of David O. Russell’s mainstays return for the movie.  Christian Bale holds down the fort solid like normal by once again flexing his weight to gain a beer belly and sporting a comb over for the role.  Despite the very real weight gain (around 40 lbs), it did sometimes look like he was wearing a fat suit instead of being fat (he didn’t seem to gain much weigh the face).  Amy Adams is good as his sidekick who finds herself intentionally faking a British accent through most of the movie (and wearing barely there dresses).  Bradley Cooper is Bradley Cooper, but he plays it well.  He’s enthusiastic and obsessed in his role and you do have to feel a bit sorry for him at points (though he constantly screws stuff up).  Jeremy Renner didn’t look old enough for the role (especially since he has grown children), but I did like Elisabeth Röhm in a small supporting role as his wife.  Jennifer Lawrence also flies (again) in this movie in a nice role, but I do find myself questioning if her accent (which she learned from watching Real Housewives episodes) holds up throughout the movie.  Other actors who make appearances include Louis C.K. as Bradley’s abused boss and Jack Huston as a made-man who romances Lawrence, Michael Peña as the Sheik, Shea Whigham as Carl Eway, and a small uncredited appearance by Robert De Niro as a Florida gangster.


Do you think beauty like this just happens?

The movie is set in the late ’70s and uses it almost to an excess.  Much like something like Boogie Nights, the movie really, really plays up the looks (mostly bad) of the ’70s for the story.  It pushes it just a bit too hard through the music and looks for the period piece, but it is hard to build a nostalgia type “style” without doing this.  I just think it sometimes cheapens a movie by essentially trying to remind people that it is the ’70s.

American Hustle is a good film, but it could have been a great film with a few minor tweaks.  That is always frustrating when you can see even more potential in a good film and wonder if it could have even been better with some distance.  Check out American Hustle if you are fan of con movies or any of the actors involved.  It is worth a trip in the way-back machine to do it.

Author: JPRoscoe View all posts by
Follow me on Twitter/Instagram/Letterboxd @JPRoscoe76! Loves all things pop-culture especially if it has a bit of a counter-culture twist. Plays video games (basically from the start when a neighbor brought home an Atari 2600), comic loving (for almost 30 years), and a true critic of movies. Enjoys the art house but also isn't afraid to let in one or two popular movies at the same time.

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