I’m sure I’ve said this before but I don’t think it’ll ever be more relevant than when it comes to “American Hustle”: This is the most contradicting movie going experience I’ve had in a long time. Equal parts impeccably acted with cracker-jack dialogue and almost immediately, obviously boring with the lack of a clear storyline. But let’s start with the good shall we.
This is “Hustle” is what to Christian Bale as “Raging Bull” was for De Niro. Gaining maybe 50 pounds for the role of real-life con man Irving Rosenfeld but fueled with an abundance of energy makes for his best performance only rivaled by “The Fighter”. His dynamism that evolves into that of broken down genius is a marvel to watch. Amy Adams is also phenomenal as his partner/lover Sydney Prosser who delivers a perfect English accent, simply because you can never tell when she’s actually doing. Both give one of the best if not the best performances of the year.
The other two major players, Bradley Cooper as Richie DiMaso and Jennifer Lawrence as Irving’s wife Rosalyn both shine towards the end but struggle to become truly drawn out until the last half or so. Not that they do a bad job until, just lesser work than they’re capable of. Lawrence does an excellent job as the loony, out-spoken New York girl that is the perfect amount of crazy to find watchable, but is still the kind of character you could see from Sharon Stone in “Casino”.
Director David O. Russell is probably the best actor’s director working today. He pushes his large casts to depths they’ve never gone to before, creating some of the best work they will probably ever do. Even a cameo from Robert De Niro and supporting performances from Louis C.K. and Jeremy Renner can be classified as show stealers when put against these modern A-listers. But the performances and their often but only often moments of humor is where the movie’s success ends, because from here on out Russell’s desire for a behind-the-scenes picture muddles the actual true story.
The ABSCAM case of 1978 was so popular every middle-aged or elderly person I asked about it went “Oh! Yes, yes, uh-hum, uh-hum, yep.” But as I was watching “Hustle”, and even as it approached its finale I had no clue as to what they were even doing. Other than the five word sentence, they’re trying to con someone, I couldn’t find the suspenseful story I’m sure the content could’ve offered. It’s less Russell does Argo and more Russell tries to do Argo but ends up being even more Russell…Russell.
This wouldn’t have been a huge issue had the movie at least been entertaining. Other than a few chuckles from the cast (especially Lawrence and C.K.) the humor is mostly coupled with the drama, sometimes working well and other times just being ill-timed. Russell is great at creating the mood of a room, but here he often struggles to feel it once he’s done so. There are jokes when there should’ve been passion and vice versa. The lack of strong humor the movie thinks it has mixed with a disappointing structure that can only be called monotone (both a personal opinion and proof of my lacking vocabulary) the 2 hour runtime was as long as I could bear. It’s an interesting character study about lengths to survive, but a placid attempt at a thriller-comedy.
The movie is both intriguing, yet dry; well-directed, yet not. If it weren’t for the outstanding cast doing an outstanding job I wouldn’t be able to recommend this movie. Along with all the story flaws the lack of a strong score almost made me jump for joy when some 70’s rock n’ roll livened things up. But the acting is so damn good I recommend this movie solely on that alone. Hell, I’d feel bad if I gave a movie with fat Batman anything less than a B.