MOVIE REVIEW: American Hustle

American Hustle is a very fine movie, about crime and ambition and loyalties.

Neither the Wife or I had not been to a movie designed for grownups since July. The autumn was WAY too busy for our liking, and we missed Gravity and Saving Captain Phillips, a couple of movies we might have otherwise seen. Finally, during Christmas break, we got a child sitter so we could go out to the Spectrum 8 Theatre in Albany.

Frankly, at that point, I would have seen ANY of the films playing there except The Hobbit (didn’t see the first one, so seeing the second in a trilogy made no sense.)

My spouse picked American Hustle. I knew little about this except that it featured some of the same folks from Silver Lings Playbook, actors Bradley Cooper, Jennifer Lawrence, Robert De Niro, and director David O. Russell, who also co-wrote this screenplay with Eric Warren Singer.

Do you remember ABSCAM? It was an FBI “sting operation… in the late 1970s and early 1980s.” American Hustle took the framework of that real event and made it into something else entirely. This couple (Christian Bale as Irving, whose combover should be nominated for something, and Amy Adams as Sydney, who was in Russell’s The Fighter) click as successful con artists until caught by the law and forced to work scams to entrap other bad guys by their overzealous FBI handler (Richie, played by Bradley Cooper.) What’s going on betwixt the gumshoe and the moll? Gumming things up further is Irving’s needy and largely abandoned wife, Rosalyn (Jennifer Lawrence, who almost steals the movie).

Without giving away too much, this is a very fine movie, about crime and ambition and loyalties, which is at least a couple of times laugh-out-loud funny at lines that, on paper, are not that humorous. Other great performances by Jeremy Renner as a New Jersey politician, and Louis CK as a mid-level FBI guy. De Niro plays that De Niro role, which is just fine for these purposes.

At least some of the critical complaints involve the fact that some of the characters have positive outcomes, which certainly doesn’t seem like such a terrible thing, given the complicated schemes and definite peril they find themselves in. In fact, the plot was occasionally SO convoluted, The Wife wasn’t always quite sure what was going on, which did not diminish from her enjoyment; I THINK I had it all figured out, eventually.

Rated R, but I’d say, in the grand scheme of American cinema, a soft R, in my book.

Author: Roger

I'm a librarian. I hear music, even when it's not being played. I used to work at a comic book store, and it still informs my life. I won once on JEOPARDY! - ditto.

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