Director: David O’Russell
Cast: Christian Bale, Amy Adams, Jeremy Renner, Bradley Cooper, Jennifer Lawrence
Watch American Hustle online in the UK: iTunes / TalkTalk TV / Prime Video (Buy/Rent) / Google Play
“All the razzle-dazzle that he does? It’s not good, it’s not real; it’s fake, it’s not real. Who you are is who you are, between you and God. You and your soul; that’s what matters, that’s what counts, that’s what I’m about. That’s what I see in you. Tell me you didn’t feel it the first time we saw each other? Am I crazy? I don’t think so.”
That’s Bradley Cooper as FBI agent Richie DiMaso trying to win over Amy Adams’ grifter – and, in doing so, revealing exactly what makes American Hustle a fun watch.
David O’Russell has knack for creating characters that feel real. From Silver Linings (Playbook) to I Heart Huckabees, he fills his stories with people who could do anything at any given moment.
“I’m not supposed to be talking like this, but I don’t care, I break the rules,” adds DiMaso, grinning like a madman and twitching constantly. Cooper’s having a while of time. And, most of the time, so do we.
Starting with a scene of Christian Bale’s con man glueing fake hair to his balding bonce, American Hustle makes it clear that this is a tale of bullshitters – but that we get to see behind the BS. The director’s signature tracking shot, which swoops around and up to his cast without warning, only adds to that free-wheeling tone, despite the occasional leering angle. Even as his plots follow convention to the letter, you get the sense that each individual scene could spiral out of control.
Ultimately, that’s what happens. Bale’s laundry man and Adams’ posh Brit sell their partnership flawlessly, but as the couple vie to outsmart the rest of the ensemble, from Jeremy Renner’s corrupt mayor to Jennifer Lawrence’s drunken wife, events slip away from them. By the time Robert De Niro (another Silver Livings alumni) turns up as a sceptical kingpin, things have fully unravelled into a string of bloated scenes.
The result is a thriller that, inevitably, suffers from a major case of Conartistitis (it’s too long and convoluted). But its cast of talented actors – not to mention their extravagant hair and costumes (for Adams, read “lack of costume”) – pack enough laughs and sentiment in to charm you throughout. Jennifer Lawrence calling a microwave a “science oven” is worth the rental price alone.
They’re not supposed to be talking like this, but they don’t care. They break the rules. Whether you ultimately fall for their tricks or not, you could watch these people BS each other for days.