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Review: American Hustle

Columbia Pictures: (L-r) Christian Bale, Amy Adams and Bradley Cooper in "American Hustle"As a person on the wrong side of the law, it’s important to always cover your tracks whenever you can in order to avoid any trouble from the people who are being paid to uphold it. That’s something you’ll either know right from the start or come to figure out after becoming more seasoned at your chosen and illegal profession. Then again, some people might be experts at this and still find their way into loads of trouble after a small miscalculation. That’s basically what happens with the con artists in David O. Russell’s American Hustle.

Irving Rosenfeld (Christian Bale) was always good at that, but even he managed to slip up enough to get some major heat on him from the feds. Before he became a target of the FBI, this con artist was doing his thing and making his money out of scamming people out of theres. Somewhere along the line, he became good at what he does, but he also became infatuated with Sydney (Amy Adams), a woman who would become what he thinks will be the love of his life.

From there, the two get along quite well in the romance department as well as ripping off desperate people looking to make sound investments. They appear to be a perfect couple when it comes to this stuff and have established a working relationship, but there are a few things that are getting in their way when talking about living out the proverbial “happily ever after” scenario that they might want.

One of the glaring issues that the couple is presented with stems from the fact that Irving is dealing with Rosalyn (Jennifer Lawrence), a young woman who just happens to be his wife on the side. Their relationship is different since she’s so much younger than him and has a child from a previous relationship. It also doesn’t help when you realize that they spend a lot of time at each others throats much of the time that they’re together.

That problem gets in their way, but believe or not, the trouble is just getting bigger for the two con artists. While their con has been going good in previous years, 1978 sees what they do take a turn for the worse when the thieving duo come under the microscope of Richie Dimaso (Bradley Cooper), an ambitious agent who works for the Federal Bureau of Investigation. Their cons and jobs that got them where they are, also have them in a world of trouble.

The fast talking abilities of Irving and the feminine allure and apparent London connections of Sydney don’t look like they’ll be much help here. They’re going to have to do as they’re told by Richie if they want to evade getting locked down for good. Luckily for them, Richie and his FBI buddies are willing to work with them and give them a chance to redeem themselves.

He offers them a deal that they literally can’t refuse. All they have to do is help the Bureau with catching at least four bust that will lead to the arrest of people involved in white-collar crime. It’s something that they may want to think about, but the offer they have on the table is what they’ll have to take unless they want to get their freedom taking away for good.

This is where a guy like Carmine Polito (Jeremy Renner) comes into play. Over the time that they’ve been putting this plan together, Polito became a primary target of this whole thing. They want to take this popular politician from New Jersey down, and he’ll be one of the primary names that will be splashed all over the newspapers across the globe if they find success with their mission.

That’s what is wanted, but of course, things don’t usually go exactly the way they’re planned. For this group of Agents, law breakers and housewives, this is just the beginning of something that’s much bigger than what they imagined. The stuff they uncover is deeper and more dangerous than they thought, and everyone involved has to question their motives and how far they want to go.

American Hustle from David O. Russell could have been as suspenseful as what I just described, but it’s not. The movie itself is a bit too long and not as dramatic or funny as it could have been or was supposed to be.  After the build up, you may be expecting a movie with some amazing caper, but the truth is you’re essentially getting a twisted love story that ends up being not so twisted when you stop looking at what it’s supposed to be and start looking at what it actually is when it’s all said and done.

During the duration of American Hustle, the main story that we’re being sold peaks its head out every now and then, but we’re often times brought back to this love story stuff more than we should be. A guy like Renner’s Carmine Polito seems to be something of a side note too much of the time and he should have been given more to do. Then again, the same can be said of Jennifer Lawrence’s Rosalyn Rosenfeld. I won’t get into her importance (or lack of importance), because I don’t want to give up any spoilers.

The reason behind the heavy focus on romance in American Hustle is due to the fact  that their isn’t as much to the story as one might be anticipating ahead of time. The entire tale of con artists working with the FBI is fairly simplistic here and there isn’t much going on with it through most of it. Because of this there is no suspense or really any of the other stuff that one might want out of movies like this one.

Now without mentioning any spoilers, I have to talk about the ending of this movie. The culmination of everything in the story may actually the most disappointing thing in the entire film. The end of American Hustle is deflating, because it comes out of nowhere and it looks as if it was basically thrown together on the spot just to finally tie everything up. There looks to be no effort put into it, and that is as unsatisfying you can get as a film goer. The end of a film is pretty much the most important part of a film, and to not even try is embarrassing.

Out of all that I complained about, that’s not to say that the movie is terrible by any means. It’s not bad, but it’s nowhere near great, and the disappointing effort behind the ending didn’t help matters. From my perspective, American Hustle is a film that’s passable at best, but it’s underwhelming with everything being considered. I can’t sit here and say that I hated it, because I do think it’s (just) okay. However, I can certainly say that I would have expected more than what David O. Russell and the gang  put into a movie that’s close to two and a half hours long. Is suspense and more effort too much to ask for?

Score: 3/5

Rating: R

Director: David O. Russell

Christian Bale
Bradley Cooper
Amy Adams
Jeremy Renner
Jennifer Lawrence

Film Length: 140 minutes

Release Dates:
December 18, 2013 (Limited)
December 20, (Wide)

Distributor: Columbia Pictures

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