VOD film review: American Hustle
James R | On 14, May 2014
Director: David O’Russell
Cast: Christian Bale, Amy Adams, Jeremy Renner, Bradley Cooper, Jennifer Lawrence
Watch American Hustle online in the UK: Amazon Prime / Apple TV (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 whale of time. And, most of the time, so are 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 BS – but that we get to see behind it. The director’s signature tracking shots, which swoop around and up to his cast without warning, 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 a dubious “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 play each other for days.
American Hustle is available to watch online on Amazon Prime Video as part of a Prime membership or a £5.99 monthly subscription.