MOTW: "American Hustle" Review

Photo Credit: Columbia Pictures

Rating: R
Length: 138 minutes
Release Date: December 20, 2013
Directed by: David O. Russell
Genre: Crime / Drama

As yet another award-winning film by director David O. Russell, the seventh feature-length film by the controversial director confirms him as one of the best in the industry. The 2013 film pairs the director with some of the actors from his past movies including Christian Bale, Bradley Cooper and Jennifer Lawrence. Set in New Jersey, "American Hustle" centers loosely around the famous ABSCAM scandal of the 1970s that involved FBI hires dressed as sheikhs who bribed government officials from the U.S. Senate and Congress.

The film follows the plot of con man Irving Rosenfeld, played brilliantly by Christian Bale, and his interactions with Sydney Prosser, played by Amy Adams, and FBI agent Richie DiMaso. "American Hustle" opens with an unforgettable scene portraying an overweight Christian Bale flashing his oversized belly in an unbuttoned shirt while he completes the process of combing over his existing hair and then gluing down a hairpiece to cover the rest of his head.

Irving and Sydney meet at a party where viewers witness the duo's fascination with each other. Irving and Sydney share a love of jazz, and Christian Bale is mesmerizing in his performance as Irving beats his invisible drum to the music. The inevitable journey into a love affair is almost palpable as the two share their feelings about music.

After Irving invites Sydney to his dry cleaning business to pick up some unclaimed designer clothes, he decides to take a bold move and fills Sydney in on his latest business venture. Irving is worried that Sydney is turned off by his con man ways, but he is pleasantly surprised to hear Sydney class herself up even more with an alluring British accent.

The movie hooks the audience in as they see the romantic and business relationship between Irving and Sydney blossom into a passionate affair. Russell directs beautiful scenes that show the elegance of the 1970s through Amy Adams' modeling of classic clothing and the beauty of her body in cleavage-baring dresses.

Viewers journey along as Irving and Sydney increase their financial transactions as they deal reproductions of expensive works of art. However, the power duo has some stressful times in store for them when they get caught in a criminal transaction with FBI agent Richie DiMaso.

Agent DiMaso has his eyes on a promotion within the bureau and decides that taking down top mafia bosses and New Jersey government men is the quickest way to his goal. As Irving and Sydney cooperate with Agent DiMaso to avoid jail time, they keep viewers guessing as another plot hook emerges with Irving's wife Rosalyn, played by the illustrious Jennifer Lawrence. Irving's biggest attachment to his wife is his adopted son, and Irving can't imagine life without him.

Rosalyn gives viewers some more comedic relief through her rants and accidents, first with a sun lamp and later with a microwave. Lawrence's spot-on New Jersey accent puts a cherry on top of the whole package that is Rosalyn. Rosalyn doesn't like to go out to meet Irving's clients, but she decides to go when Mayor Carmine Polito, played by Jeremy Renner, invites Irving and her out for a night out along with Polito's wife. As she also showed in "Silver Linings Playbook," nobody can play crazy quite like Jennifer Lawrence. She shows her acting chops with glory through Rosalyn's passionate outbursts of emotion and comedic glimpses at what she sees as her intelligence, but this results in disaster as she reveals important details to her new-found love

As Irving tries to perform damage control from Rosalyn's loose lips, viewers watch as Agent DiMaso becomes more and more infatuated with Sydney. It becomes unclear whether Sydney is truly attracted to Agent DiMaso or whether she is trying to put one over on the agent to throw him off their trail. The ABSCAM atmosphere finally arrives when a high-stress scene is orchestrated with a Hispanic man dressed as a sheikh to carry out a scam with a top mafia boss.

As an award-winning film by director David O. Russell, "American Hustle" makes an excellent option for top-notch acting performances in a plot filled with twists and turns to keep you guessing. The movie is appropriate for ages 18 and older and shows both the humor and allure of life in the 1970s. The film features exceptional performances by Christian Bale, Jennifer Lawrence, Amy Adams and Bradley Cooper. Viewers take in an entertaining mix of comedy, drama, romance and intrigue as a plot with 1970s fashion and lifestyle unravels before their eyes.

Rating: 3.5 out of 5