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Film Review: American Hustle


As an actor best known for portraying Bruce Wayne, a character who chooses to protect his celebrity personality (and his best interests) by wearing a mask and using a pseudonym whilst crime-fighting, it is extremely interesting that Christian Bale was cast in the lead role of American Hustle– a film about lies, masks, fake personalities and JAZZ!

Bale stars as Irving Rosenfeld, a man whose career as a con artist began when he smashed windows as a child so as to gain customers for his father’s glass company. In 1978, he meets stripper Sydney (Amy Adams), who begins to pose as a British aristocrat in order to attract investors to Irving’s embezzlement plot. Unfortunately, Irving’s wife Rosalyn (Jennifer Lawrence), a seriously unstable now-single mother, is still in the picture. As Irving and Sydney team up with an FBI agent (Bradley Cooper) and scheme to con Jeremy Renner’s Camden mayor, their carefully drawn lives begin to crumble before them as their true personalities come to the fore.

David O. Russell’s last film, Silver Linings Playbook, also starring Cooper and Lawrence and winner of many major 2013 awards, was- in my opinion- a fairly sub-standard romantic drama disguised as a meaningful study of love. That film, surprisingly, had many fans, most of whom have seen Hustle as inferior. However, whether or not you liked Playbook, this is undoubtedly a more well-acted, well-written, structurally sound and thematically interesting work of cinema.

Acting-wise, it is Amy Adams who comes out the best, almost entirely causing one to forget her awful work in Man of Steel and reminding us all how unfair it is that she is consistently snubbed at the Oscars. Bale also does fine work, clearly using his years as Bruce Wayne to assist him in inhabiting the uptight and over-proud Irving, a man who spends 10 minutes fixing his wig every morning and refuses to speak to anyone who touches it. Lawrence, as usual, fails miserably when attempting to ‘act’ properly, shouting and waving her hands around in what some people may misinterpret as a “good performance”. She is a model student of the Jack Nicholson/ Meryl Streep school of overacting, and should stick to firing arrows and giving great interviews- that’s what she’s good at, and that’s what people like her for! Bradley Cooper doesn’t get the chance to do a lot, and his role is firmly one of support. Louis C.K. and Michael Pena provide excellent cameos, the latter’s being part of a superbly funny con-job which panders to some of the my aspects of modern comedy cinema.

As the main characters gradually lose their cool, the film loses its early stylish atmosphere (soundtracked brilliantly with jazz), becoming a less unique character study and more of a common 70s-set drama. Still, it’s utterly unforgettable, for better or worse, and is Russell’s most thoroughly enjoyable work in years.


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Lucien writes on film, television and politics at and co-hosts the podcasts Above All Else and The 99%.

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