Chris Mcsweeney reviews the star-laden American Hustle. Does it live up to the hype?
David O’Russell’s achieved the fairly impossible over the last few years – bouncing back from the farcical, critically decimated box-office flop “I Heart Huckabees” (which almost outed him to the wider public as a massive asshole), to become the darling of contemporary Hollywood; with a string of Oscar winning comedy-dramas (The Fighter, Silver Linings Playbook) and a gaggle of A-listers in tow, ready to bend to his will on the promise of Academy gold. In short, American Hustle is a firm and convincing addition to David O’Russell’s upward trajectory.
The film follows the exploits of a tubby comb-overed conman (Bale), who is blackmailed alongside his associate and mistress (Adams) by an ambitious yet slightly unhinged FBI agent (Cooper) into entrapping a well-meaning yet dodgy politician (Renner) in a bribery scandal. Jennifer Lawrence is in there too, if you weren’t sold already.
The strength of this picture is mainly in the performances, as all of the principles completely disappear into their characters. I’ve struggled with it for entire minutes, and have concluded that no one performer stands out emphatically from the rest, due to the fact that they’re all on such a great level. Christian Bale once again proves his incredible versatility and dedication to his craft, particularly if you consider that Hustle-Bale is likely double the weight of Bat-Bale, and quadruple the weight of Machinist-Bale.
Although probably not as heavy as this Hay-Bale.
Amy Adams’ performance was approximately 80% side-boob (at least that’s where my eyes were drawn), but the other 20% of her performance where there were words and facial expressions and things was also Oscar-worthy. Jennifer Lawrence will also silence any critic who thought she was undeserving of her 2013 Oscar here, as her performance transcends the script to bring something remarkably human to a character that was clearly written to be ditsy comic relief. Bradley Cooper’s neurotic Fed was also hysterical at times, especially during his scenes with his disapproving superior officer (Louis CK).
The heavy-hitting A-list cast carried the film flawlessly with a great chemistry and humour, yet the movie itself slipped up ever so slightly in the pacing. Despite a 140 minute run-time, it still came as a great surprise when the film suddenly wrapped up and ended, in an abrupt yet satisfactory fashion. The build-up to the climax was a little disjointed – so much so that you didn’t even realise you were in it when it was happening. This was a remarkable shame, and the only downside I can identify from an otherwise brilliant movie.
To wider audiences, this film will likely be a victim of its expectation. The popcorn-shovelling masses will expect at least some sex and violence – but they will find this film severely lacking (in the latter, at least). Frankly, regardless of Oscars, this film will be no insta-classic, but rather a great film that will be stumbled upon in years to come by pleasantly surprised viewers, much like finding a great song by a good band you barely listen to. I think that’s the best way to stand the test of time. It may yet be culturally significant, as it could trigger a mass re-naming of the Microwave Oven. Go see it, you’ll see what I mean.
4-and-a-half side boobs out of 5.
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