Sunday, 19 January 2014

Film Review - American Hustle

The Con Job

Film: American Hustle
Cast: Christian Bale, Amy Adams, Jennifer Lawrence, Bradley Cooper
Directed by: David O Russell
Duration: 2 hrs 28 mins
Rating: * * * 1 / 2

The release of American Hustle coincides with the Oscar nominations that were announced earlier this week and this film directed by David O Russell manage to garner ten nominations including four in the acting department. The film has already won the Golden Globe for Best Motion Picture - Comedy or Musical.

Winning a lot of accolades can be a double edged sword for a film. It gets publicity but then it also raises expectations.

Director David O Russell has always been making interesting films, from Three Kings to The Fighter and Silver Linings Playbook. Inspired by the real life Abscam where several senators were arrested on corruption charges, this time he takes you back to circa 1978. An almost unrecognizable Christian Bale plays Irving Rosenfeld, a talker who is as smooth as they get. He has a well to do dry-cleaning business but ambition and his hustling talents get the better of him when he meets Sydney (Amy Adams) who makes his perfect partner in business. If the wolf on Wall Street made money by selling penny stocks, this hustler promises people a loan and takes a commission in advance which he gets to keep even if the loan never materializes. Sydney pretends to be a Brit with banking connections and uses the alias, Lady Edith Greensley.

Irving meanwhile has a wife (Jennifer Lawrence) who is bored at home and she also has a son, whom Irving treats as his own. The FBI led by Richie (Bradley Cooper) clamps down on his business and arrests him and Sydney but they also make an offer to help them nab other offenders. After careful consideration and with no other choice, they decide to join hands with the Feds.

With their conning skills, they are expected to help the officials catch some big fish and when the net is cast, the catch is indeed a big one. But not before a few complex situations arise for Irving on the personal and professional front.

While the pacing of the film is leisurely, it is with the characters that Russell keeps you involved in the proceedings. You sympathize with all of them especially Irving who wants to eat his cake and have it too. Robert De Niro plays a cameo and a terrific one as the big boss of the mob.  Jeremy Renner plays the mayor of the town who gets caught in the cross fire. 

The soundtrack is effective using retro songs from Donna Summer (I feel love), Elton John (Goodbye Yellow Brick Road) to Duke Ellington and Paul McCartney (Live and let die).

The cast has given a remarkable performance. The ladies Amy Adams and Jennifer Lawrence are among the most sought after actresses in Hollywood and for a good reason. Bale adds yet another feather to his hat, from the lean and mean brother in The Fighter to this paunchy character, the physical transformation and the portrayal is amazing.

American Hustle may not a classic as the awards and nominations suggest but it is still an entertaining enterprise.

(Published in The Navhind Times on 19th Jan 2014)


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