DIRECTOR: David O. Russelluk-poster

CAST: Christian Bale, Amy Adams, Bradley Cooper, Jennifer Lawrence, Jeremy Renner, Robert De Niro, Louis C.K., Michael Peña, Jack Huston, Elisabeth Röhm, Erica McDermott

RUNNING TIME: 138 mins

CERTIFICATE: 15

BASICALLY…: Con-man Irving Rosenfeld (Bale) and his partner-in-crime Sydney (Adams) are recruited by FBI agent Richie (Cooper) to help lure some corrupt politicians into a false deal…

NOW FOR THE REVIEW…

The casts of The Fighter and Silver Linings Playbook, together at last. But David O. Russell’s latest caper is not the Avengers-style crossover you’d think it might be, though seeing all these actors who have appeared in the director’s previous films within the same scene is indeed bizarre and just a little distracting.

However, regardless of whoever may be in it, American Hustle is another golden triumph for the re-esteemed filmmaker once best known for picking on-set fights with George Clooney and Lily Tomlin.

Taking his inspiration from the likes of Martin Scorsese, but retaining his certain naturalistic style (and yes, that includes his signature zoom-ins on people’s faces which gets tiresome after the umpteenth time), Russell recreates the vibrant, sexy America of the late 1970s to a tee from its outlandish set designs to the extremely naff costumes which barely cover women’s chests and men’s self-esteem. Then there’s the hairstyling on each individual character, which oddly enough serves as one of the film’s greatest strengths. Props to Christian Bale in this field for proudly wearing his dreadful comb-over (to which the film’s opening moments see an extended prep montage) like a badge, and to Bradley Cooper for going through entire scenes with ridiculous pink curlers in his hair and not once showing any sign of vanity. These, and others, serve a purpose once a character points out that we all do things to survive, including changing our own appearance just to fit into society. That blunt statement may be a little on the nose for the smarter-than-average audience member, but it’s good to know that hair is given the props that it deserves in a film like this.

American Hustle is also very much an actor’s movie, with each and every main player delivering some of their best work. Bale and Cooper are of course as brilliant as you can expect them to be, each creating a sense of charm and likability despite them doing very questionable things. Jeremy Renner, as the sole major newcomer to O. Russell’s filmography, just might well be the nicest crooked politician you’ll ever see (and unfortunately, that’s a rare breed) thanks to his dedicated and heartfelt performances. But the biggest praise should probably go to its lead actresses who are given probably the better roles in the movie. Jennifer Lawrence is on top form with a highly entertaining and riotous turn as Bale’s loose cannon of a wife, and a sequence wherein she cleans a house while singing and head-banging to Wings’ “Live and Let Die” seals the fact that she had the time of her life while making this movie. While Lawrence is getting the most attention from the awards pundits at the moment, it should really be acknowledged that Amy Adams is more than worthy of a nomination at the very least. It’s doubtful she’d take the gold (after all, Cate Blanchett is slowly gaining a mighty hand in that race), but just to see her be recognised for such a riveting, emotional and four-dimensional performance would make our day. How it is that someone as furiously talented and exceptionally beautiful as Adams is not yet a recipient of a little gold guy is beyond us, and we’re hoping that it changes soon enough.

Also worthy of mention is Louis C.K. as Cooper’s put-upon FBI boss, whose humorous anecdotes about a childhood ice-fishing story are constantly put down and unresolved in ways that feel reminiscent of the Coen Brothers; and an unrecognisable Robert De Niro makes an extended scene-stealing cameo in one scene that represents some of his strongest and most tense work in eons.

Like with his previous films, Russell injects a great sense of naturalism into scenes, allowing the actors to deliver their lines as though they were really saying them as opposed to memorising them from a script. Think Mike Leigh, if he had fought George Clooney on the set of Three Kings. But his flexibility, stemming from a script he co-wrote with Eric Warren Singer, gives them the free reign to add layer upon layer to their characters as they go through the events as depicted on-screen.

Russell has gone on record saying that what he wanted to focus on with this film was the characters as opposed to the plot, and when you experience how twisty-turny the majority of the story is then you can definitely see why. Once it becomes focused on the methods of taking down corrupt politicians, it starts to get difficult to follow which can lead to viewers feeling confused as to what’s going on half the time. It’s the kind of story where attention is key, and one major twist near the end is testament to that.

But the important thing is that it does what it does well, and that it’s entertaining enough to ensure a crowd-pleasing following this forthcoming awards season. While we don’t think American Hustle has what it takes to emerge as the clear front-runner in the Oscar race over other films like Gravity and 12 Years A Slave, it can certainly be one of the major contenders at best. Then again, stranger things have happened on Oscar night…

SO, TO SUM UP…

American Hustle is a highly entertaining caper with confident direction and a fantastic ensemble cast (especially Amy Adams and Jennifer Lawrence) to give it legs among the more noteworthy Oscar contenders this year. See it while you can, and find out why everyone is doing the Hustle