Title: American Hustle
Language: English, Arabic
Genre: Crime, Drama, Comedy
Director: David O’Russell
Eric Warren Singer
Music: Danny Elfman
Cinematography: Linus Sandgren
Robert De Niro
AMERICAN HUSTLE has an impeachable cast, a 70s zeitgeist ambience (sterling soundtrack, hairdo arrangement and wardrobe selections), a not-so-bulletproof script, but the film is nonetheless a hail of David O’Russell’s consistency in his endeavor of a characters-centered dramedy, he relentlessly supplies improvisations for his actors to illicit their spontaneous interactions with maximum dynamism, meanwhile his slick camera mobility complements the narrative steadily with intentional oomph to woo the audience, a strategy functions unexpectedly well after the one-two punch THE FIGHTER (2010) and SILVER LININGS PLAYBOOK (2012), now AMERICAN HUSTLE repeats the mojo, altogether ricochet him to the rarefied echelon of a three-times BEST DIRECTOR nominees, and an auteur status rosily awaits.
It is a con men’s tale superimposed on some real events, don’t wait for a revelatory twist in the end, it is a flat-out chicanery hatched by pro con artist Irving (Bale) and his business partner/inamorata Sydney (Adams) dragooned by a hotheaded FBI agent Richie (Cooper), a bold plan to snare politicians to bribery through a forged Arabic sheikh who promises to invest the Atlantic City while also incriminates an intimidating mafia boss (a surprising cameo here), things may run a little off-track thanks to Irving’s big-mouthed bimbo wife Rosalyn (Lawrence), but in any rate they pull off the scam and to all appearances the only collateral damage is the aspiring Mayor Carmine Polito (Renner).
The storyline goes high-flown all over the place, from the telling voice-over of Irving and Sydney narrating their lot to the summary engineering of the swindle, and a highly-anticipated showdown between the wife and the other woman, O’Russell never get cold-feet in pitching viewers against the heightened melodrama, plus he is also a cunning gamer of deploying ticking bombs but never ignite them, the set pieces of giving the game away (language is always a ruthless traitor) are elaborately engaging, anyhow even in the worst-case scenario, its wacky caricature can deaden the threats and we are riding on the devil-may-care road again.
A consecutive home-run for 4 nominations in all acting category after SILVER LININGS PLAYBOOK is a marvelous feat, Christian Bale is a fervid shape-shifter, downplays Irving’s cautiousness and shrewdness in the teamwork while highlights his fatal weak point, that is he is incapable of controlling his women, both Sydney and Rosalyn, his oscillation is palpable although we may feel in deficiency of sympathy for him. As much as I adore Amy Adams, her role is not entirely within Oscar-caliber, she confidently carries her story halfway through, then gives way to be a sidekick, even during the confrontation between her and Rosalyn, which should be her moment, she is eclipsed by the more coruscating Jennifer Lawrence, who is getting more and more accustomed to act over her real age, which is always appreciable and more approachable to its core audience. Cooper, a scene-stealer especially when he co-exists with a more reserved Bale, spontaneously hilarious especially when he confronts his boss (Louis C.K.) the (never-ending) fishing joke, the assault and mimic scenes are deadly comical. Renner is the unsung hero here, there is something ambiguous under his ideal husband/politician archetype and he is the one embellishes his character with a patina of the unpredictability of human nature.
The film is all about disguise, Irving preens his bald dome with a toupee, Sydney’s fake British identity, Richie’s curly hair, and who knows what is Carmine’s non-shown self, the facade is a prerequisite to their self-esteem, Rosalyn maybe both the dumbest and the wisest of them all, she gets what she wants in the end and her conception of the nail polish with a scent of putrescence is spot-on.
The best line of the film? My pick is “it is almost scary, how easy it is to take money from desperate people”. A rude-awakening and a truism hard to swallow.