Directed and co-written by David O. Russell, American Hustle follows brilliant con-man Irvine Rosenfield (Christians Bale) who, along with his cunning and seductive partner Sydney (Amy Adams), is forced to cooperate with wild FBI agent Richie DiMaso (Bradley Cooper). Pushing them into a world of Jersey powerbrokers and the mafia, Irvine’s unpredictable wife (Jennifer Lawrence) could be the one to pull the thread that brings their entire world crashing down.
Crime, glamour, cleavages, and perms, from the style to the extravagant performances, American Hustle started the year off with a dazzling show of ruthless twists and elaborate characters.
Intensely clever but equally bizarre, American Hustle begins with a caption stating that this is “mostly true”. Like with last year’s crime comedy Pain & Gain, also based on a true story, it’s hard to pull yourself away from a film when you know it’s true (mostly) but you just can’t quite believe it. Con men and tricksters who you know you shouldn’t trust become your best friends as you find yourself rooting for them to succeed, no matter who they hurt or cheat in the process. In real life, this wouldn’t be the case, but Russell gives the story so much humour and glamour that you just can’t help yourself.
This is certainly a film full of class, even though its characters have very little of it. With high-quality performances, American Hustle has an ensemble cast with some complimentary cameos. Russell has already shown how well he can work with his new favourite acting duo Bradley Cooper and Jennifer Lawrence in his previous film Silver Linings Playbook, but also what dedication he can expect from Christian Bale with his performance in The Fighter. It’s always promising when a director knows how to get the best out of his actors, and this was a given with American Hustle. Amy Adams gives her best performance yet, or at least, for me, it was the first time I found her role believable, even if she puts on a fake British accent for most of the film. Bale and Cooper are both excellently hilarious, too, but it’s Jennifer Lawrence who gives this her all. As an actress, she is just growing and growing over the last couple of years, and she has definitely reached her peak here, with her clumsy, raging, yet thoroughly lovable role.
The film’s runtime drags slightly, but the final twists bring the final act up to pace and ends with as much kick as it began with. Extremely entertaining, delivering all that it promises, this is one of the best hustles you would have seen in a long time, and probably will be for a while to come.