Movie Review: American Hustle

IMDB, American Hustle“American Hustle” on IMDB

Crime/Drama, 138 Minutes, 2013

Con men Irving (Christian Bale [IMDB] playing the tubby, balding veteran) and Sydney (Amy Adams [IMDB] and her breasts as his brilliant protege) comfortably execute precise, just small-enough scores on people that probably deserve it. When they’re pinched by FBI agent Richie (Bradley Cooper [IMDB]), they’re forced to work with him to bring down some local hustlers.

When the job escalates to beloved politicians, not-so-beloved politicians and dangerous gangsters, Irving and Sydney know they’re in over their heads. Richie, promotion in his eyes, is undeterred and keeps chumming the water around their overloaded, rubber boat. As the pressure builds, loyalties are gained and lost and all concerned have to reexamine what they need to consider important.

The performances are what holds this together. Bale is excellent as the confident, but still fragile Irving. Cooper chews a little scenery, but it works rather well for the egotistical, cocksure Richie. Louis C.K. [IMDB] also makes a memorable, if small, appearance as Richie’s long suffering supervisor.

The female leads are the heart of the movie, even if it didn’t seem like they got the respect they deserved. I like to think that constant use of naval-deep, plunging necklines was purely catering to period fashion and not, as it seemed, just an excuse to titillate. But, honestly, if I  felt things were being pushed too far, that they must have been pushed way too far.

Adams is always solid and likable, but considering her vast catalog of chipper, girl-next-door roles, I was unsure how well she’d do as a conniving, criminal mastermind. Turns out, I had nothing to worry about. In essentially a dual role – her vulnerable, middle-america self and her confident, British alter-ago – she gave everything required and more.

Jennifer Lawrence [IMDB], as Irving’s manipulative, emotionally-broken wife, brought the right amount of crazy to the proceedings. The two women completely stole the movie. Although they only shared a few short scenes together, they were the most powerful and most memorable, by far.

I enjoyed this a lot, but can also see the points of those confused about its near-universal critical acclaim. It was slow, at points, and tended to over-complicate matters. A solid 20 minutes could have easily been cut. Perhaps it was just an extension of the costuming issues I mentioned, but there were also some noticeably… “odd” shots. Lingering crawls across Adams’ body or close-ups of her feet that lasted just a split second too long, for example.

Still, granting that one or more of the people making this movie may be fetishists, it is a very good movie. The performances are rock solid and all the more impressive as many of the actors were clearly playing outside their comfort zones. It may not be the savior of American cinema that some critics have made it out to be, but it is damn good.

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