American Hustle (David O. Russell, 2013)
With his more recent successes, David O. Russell has had a hype over everyone of his last films like The Fighter, Silver Linings Playbook, and lately American Hustle. While not being great films, they are quite enjoyable and present a solid cast.
Now with American Hustle, many Russell regulars are back : Jennifer Lawrence, Amy Adams, Bradley Cooper, and Christian Bale. It is easy to state that Russell’s film might not deliver to the buzz around it and that he got too into his story but he sure gets some of the best performances from his brilliant cast including Jeremy Renner.
In 1978, a con artist Irving Rosenfeld (Bale) and his mistress Sydney Prosser aka Lady Edith Greensly (Adams) are discovered by FBI agent Richie DiMaso (Cooper) and they must participate in a plot to arrest four more people and they will be released of the charges against them. We follow their mise en scène to catch politicians while using the Mayor of Camden (Renner) in New Jersey and pretending to have a billionaire sheik that wants to invest into the new Atlantic City. In the meantime, Sydney flirts with Richie and it provokes Irving’s jealousy while he tries to convince his wife (Lawrence) that everything’s fine just to keep the custody of his son Danny.
While trying to mix the criminal mastermind of mise en scène and fraud, Russell mixes the corrupted politicians, and the world of mobsters. All obviously intertwined, those elements are not quite well handled and despite wanting to be as much as a Martin Scorsese movie, American Hustle seems more like a pale comparison to a Casino or a Goodfellas. Even if the acting from Christian Bale will probably earn him another Oscar nomination, the story isn’t tight enough and it feels like its director was too much into his story and the vintage props. Pretty much like his other films, Russell seems to be struggling to get a solid script that will equal and elevate to the level of his actors’ performances.
Finally, after all the hype, the superb choice of songs, and the outstanding cast, American Hustle seems a little empty in the middle and falls too easily into common places. There are many typical moments in a film about scams and the mob and even if based on true or some true events, it is difficult even for talented filmmakers to achieve a great movie. Just look at Andrew Dominik’s Killing Them Softly that was promising so much well American Hustle delivers more but is far from being a great movie.