American Hustle review all-star cast excel in entertaining thriller

Posted on 15 January 2014
By Craig Kell
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The Sting meets Goodfellas in consistent director David O. Russell’s new crime thriller American Hustle, which follows on from his recent successes The Fighter and last year’s Silver Linings Playbook.

Off the back of multiple Golden Globe nominations, the film carries on the awards-contender tradition of being released here with acclaimed momentum and it’s easy to see what all the fuss is about.

A fictional account of the 1970s Abscam operation, it captivates from the outset with a combined mixture of humour and sympathy for the protagonist Irving as he places fake hair on top of his head only to be humiliated moments later.

This unusual sequence may seem out of place for a supposedly ‘serious’ film, but it instead catches our attention and triggers the start of this bold and daring story that unfolds throughout the two hour running time.

Just like Martin Scorsese’s masterpiece Goodfellas, the film relies on slick editing and stylish camera work to progress through different scenes with useful voice overs provided by the likes of Irving, Richie and Sydney to explain what is going on.

Even the production values share similarity with Hustle looking and feeling like it belongs in the 1970s with its dazzling costumes, makeup and hairstyles.

The best comparison between the two films comes from O. Russell’s excellent use of the blistering soundtrack complete with hits from Tom Jones, Donna Summer, Elton John and best of all, Paul McCartney.

But as an independent film, Hustle exposes the art of deception well in its clinical story but amidst the twists and turns, we come to realise that it’s the individuals who captivate us throughout as everyone gets a chance to shine in this majestic ensemble cast.

Leading the pack is the formidable duo of Christian Bale and the lovely Amy Adams. Their chemistry flourishes throughout as they manage to incorporate coolness and intimacy to their roles as cunning con-artists Irving and Sydney.

Bale carries the film with great tenacity and produces yet another mesmerising performance as a man who lacks appeal yet intrigues us with his charming approach towards the profession he loves.

Looking as sexy as sexy as ever on the big screen, Adams continues to move away from the days of playing Giselle in Enchanted with an irresistible portrayal of a woman trying to adapt and change even when showing her seductive side.

Both actors are also ably supported by the versatile Bradley Cooper and Jennifer Lawrence as the pair reunite straight after their fantastic collaboration in Silver Linings.

Showing more variety with his recent cinematic work, Cooper provides comic relief as determined FBI agent Richie. Charming one minute and sleazy the next, Richie is one dysfunctional man who only manages to thrive when involved in sexual tension with Adams’ Sydney but is eventually duped in the film’s finale.

Following on from her box-office success with The Hunger Games, Lawrence continues to show why she is one of the best young actresses of her generation by playing a role that requires her to act older than she actually is.

As the vindictive yet sweet Rosslyn, the internet sensation is brilliant to watch as she plays this eccentric character to perfection.

Hustle does occasionally suffer from lapses in Russell and co-writer Eric Warren Singer’s script which is fortunately saved by the broad performances of the all star cast.

All four central actors are on top form, but the uneven screenplay means their characters fail to comes across as sympathetic to the audience especially when it comes to focusing on the relationship sub-plots and confrontational moments.

The ending wraps up proceedings a bit too quickly, but with that aside, American Hustle is a strong opening film to 2014 and benefits from its fabulous all-star cast in a glamorous 70s setting.