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MikePA's Movie Reviews (137)

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American Hustle 
Review: American Hustle
3/4 stars

David O. Russell's new film, American Hustle, had one of the year's coolest, most exciting trailers that easily and immediately injected viewers with ultra-high expectations. By observing the enormous and cinematically unbeatable cast, the amazing song "Good Times Bad Times" by Led Zeppelin, and the stylish camera work and production design, this film looked like a cinematic orgasm. Let's be honest. And plus, that fact that David O. Russell is calling the shots - you know, that guy who made last year's outstanding Silver Linings Playbook and 2010's compelling The Fighter (he also made I Heart Huckabees, but I'll try not to talk about that thing now) - raises hopes even more. Does American Hustle meet the high anticipations? Hmm...

The film's opening title card suggests that "Some of This Actually Happened." It's funny because it's hard to imagine that, well, some of this actually happened. Essentially the film tells the story about the brilliant conman, Irving Rosenfeld (Christian Bale), and his sexy British partner-in-crime, Sydney Prosser (Amy Adams), who basically live to rip people off. They soon get tangled in a situation with a nutcase FBI agent, Richie DiMaso (Bradley Cooper), who force them into a high-stake world full of New Jersey powerbrokers and the mafia. Many supporting players, including Jennifer Lawrence, Jeremy Renner, and Louis C.K., are in the film to push the buttons and pull the strings that either provide help or create difficulties for our three main players.

It feels like the trailer slightly exaggerated things. The film has moments of sheer fun and hilarity, but unfortunately, as a complete whole, it's not always as loose, lovable, and hilarious as it wants to be. It finds difficulties sustaining a tone, as it cuts back and forth from something comically rousing to something dead serious. Sometimes, it just lies there in the puddle with occasional bright rainbows. The opening sequences, which tells the story of Irving and Sydney's developing partnership, is so messy and poorly constructed that it loses any chance of emotional attachment.

But I feel like the obvious flaws don't matter that much. The film exists to showcase an interesting story featuring strangely interesting characters - and that aspect is done absolutely wonderfully, so I can't fault the film so much. It's easy to see what attracted David O. Russell to this story. His passion and commitment to it really shines through.

Russell's vibrant and razzle-dazzle direction boosts energy into many of the film's sequences. Helping doing so is an insanely cool soundtrack and the electrifying performances. This massive cast brings some terrific energy to the table as characters who are all flawed, but contain qualities good enough to juice up some humanity within them. It's reminiscent of Paul Thomas Anderson's Boogie Nights. While it doesn't have the well developed characters, it does have the engaging story and stunningly cool style that made that film so great. It's pretty clear that Russell is channeling the likes of Anderson and Scorsese, which isn't a bad thing. In this case, it's actually a damn good thing.

The performances, all around, are incredible. You don't always see an actor completely and utterly lose themselves into a character, but here it's fucking everywhere, especially in Bale. Bale gained a lot of weight for this role, showing true commitment to the part (which isn't really that much of a surprise). While many of these characters are over-the-top, nobody here ever seems to be overacting without bringing gravity. Everything feels just right. It's honestly perfect. Christian Bale, Amy Adams, Jennifer Lawrence, Jeremy Renner, and Bradley Cooper - all phenomenal.

American Hustle is a good, well made film - high in energy and rich in vibrancy. The performances are stunning and the story is always engaging, so the most underwhelming scenes are easy to compensate.

3/4


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