American Hustle

Directed by David O. Russell
Starring Christian Bale, Amy Adams, Bradley Cooper and Jennifer Lawrence
Limited UK Release December 20th, 2013
In UK Cinemas January 1st, 2014

I desperately did not want to like this film.  I despised Silver Linings Playbook and while I thought The Fighter was a very good film, it bored me to tears save Christian Bale’s Oscar-winning performance.  In spite of my animosity towards David O. Russell’s last film, American Hustle has won me over.  Notably because of the amazing performances by its cast, its comedy moments, and its amazing fashion.

The plot is irrelevant.  It’s about the characters and the actors who play them.  The main star studded cast is filled out nicely with support from Jeremy Renner, Jack Huston, Robert De Niro, and Louis C.K. who steals all of his scenes played against the hilarious Bradley Cooper.  Although, Bradley Cooper does manage to get his own back when doing the best Louis C.K. impression in the scene highlight of the film.

While Bradley Cooper and Jennifer Lawrence play outright comedy and are on good form, the film’s brightest star is the ever-engrossing Christian Bale who plays drama in the most emphatic and hard-hitting fashion, and comedy just as straight, which means you can’t help but find his deadpan delivery genuine and hilarious.  Without him, this film would fall flat.

Again, the plot is irrelevant and messy, leaving me with a slight feeling of having been hustled myself – where is the substance?  Where is the depth?  I didn’t care what was happening and I just wanted to see the four main characters, notably Bale and Cooper, do their things. It is a lot of style and little substance, but an entertaining journey that I’m happy to take.

American Hustle is very similar to another movie it faces in the upcoming awards season – The Wolf of Wall Street – Martin Scorsese’s high octane comedy starring Leonardo DiCaprio.  While similar in tone, American Hustle does prove to be a more enjoyable watch.  Both rivaling for funniest moments, but while DiCaprio is hilarious and even masters physical comedy, Christian Bale’s deadpanning makes a more enjoyable watch in the long run.  And long-running they both are.  The Wolf clocks in at 3hours, while American Hustle at 2hours 20minutes.  While I had enough of American Hustle, I was physically numb after watching The Wolf.

It does come back to Christian Bale.  His portrayal of despicable conman Irving Rosenfeld is played with empathy.  Leonardo Dicaprio’s portrayal of despicable conman Jordan Belfort is despicable, although a riveting and brilliant performance.  These films feel so intertwined that perhaps seeing American Hustle before The Wolf of Wall Street made The Wolf‘s impact less dramatic and American Hustle‘s greater than it deserves.  Perhaps if I’d seen them the other way round, this review would be inversed.

Does American Hustle live up to the hype?  No.  But is it a fun movie to watch?  Yes.  Worth the watch, but maybe not the Oscar.

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