Film - American Hustle


With awards season upon us again a reminder that Steve Taylor-Bryant tipped American Hustle for many Oscars when it came out. It won precisely none. Oh well, you can't win them all...

I loved 'Silver Linings Playbook' and couldn’t wait to see what writer/director David O. Russell would entertain me with next. American Hustle was that film. With a huge and distinguished cast, the pressure was on to bring the project, based loosely on a true story, to the screen. The pressure though was answered and the film won every award it could...except the Oscars I believe it deserved.

Irv Rosenfeld (Christian Bale - American Psycho) is an overweight grifter with the comb-over from hell. He runs his father’s glazing business and a few dry cleaners around New York but makes most of his money fencing stolen art and taking admin fees for loans he has no intention of giving people, albeit on a small scale. At a party he meets Sydney (Amy Adams - Man of Steel) and, through a love of jazz records, they get to know each other, before Sydney invents Lady Edith and, complete with British accent and imaginary banking contacts, she joins Irv in scamming businessmen and becomes his mistress. At home Irv has an adopted son he dotes on and a wife, Rosalyn (Jennifer Lawrence - The Hunger Games) who is hazardous to any home appliance, with fires being a daily thing.

Whilst on another routine scam, Irv and Sydney get entrapped by Federal Agent Richie DiMaso (Bradley Cooper - The Hangover) and Sydney is imprisoned for three days. To get her released and themselves off the hook, Irv agrees to help the F.B.I. take down four corrupt businessmen but the scheme grows as the ever ambitious Richie changes the goal posts. The first mark is local New Jersey mayor Carmine Polito (Jeremy Renner - Avengers Assemble) but trouble starts brewing as Polito and Irv become good friends. Polito isn't corrupt, he is just doing his best for constituents and wants to rebuild Atlantic City as a gambling mecca, providing thousands of jobs.

With a fake Sheikh in tow, Richie and his scheme nets a few corrupt Congressmen and a Senator, before attempting to take down Mafia boss Victor Telligio (Robert De Niro - Goodfellas) and it is this power play that starts to see the scheme unravel, with Richie eventually being hustled by Irv and Sydney and falling from grace from within the F.B.I.

The fake Sheikh scam is not a new one. The British tabloid media have used it successfully for years, before themselves falling foul of the law, and it works through its simplicity – people’s greed. If this was the only storyline in American Hustle it would be very boring but it wasn't. There were so many side stories going on. Richie and his boss Stoddard Thorsen (Louis C.K. - Louis) fighting each other over how to go about the sting and some incredible scenes involving an ice fishing story, everyone falling in love with someone else - Irv with Sydney, Richie with Sydney, Sydney with both Irv and Richie, Rosalyn with a gangster associate of Telligio, Pete Musane (Jack Huston - Outlander), it was an emotional rollercoaster and a sexual roundabout that was dizzying at times. The hair styles were almost characters of their own as, alongside Irv's comb-over, there was a tight perm for Richie and seeing Bradley Cooper in curlers is worth the cover price of the DVD and Jeremy Renner seems to have a baby animal growing on the top of his head.

This was a Scorsese movie with lashings of black comedy thrown in for good measure and, whilst the basic plot point was simplistic, the multi layers of stories were fascinating and gripping. The whole cast were superb and Bale was the pick of the bunch...until I saw Jennifer Lawrence and her mad cleaning scene whilst singing along to Live and Let Die. Cinematic gold.

Follow Steve on Twitter @STBwritesImage - Amazon