By Mark Saldana
Rating: 3.5 (Out of 4 Stars)
Just prior to writing this review, I wrote a review about the latest film by Ethan and Joel Coen, Inside Llewyn Davis. In this review, I discussed the trademark characters and brand of humor for which the directors are known. Another director known for a certain brand of humor and his use of uproarious characters is David O. Russell. In his films, Russell tends to go for realism as his foundation, but tends to build up his stories with satire, absurdity, and heightened scenarios. His movies also feature exciting and entertaining characters which add even more color to the narratives. With his latest American Hustle, Russell channels Martin Scorsese to spin a yarn (based on actual events), but still maintains his lovable trademarks which make his movies so exciting.
Irving Rosenfeld (Christian Bale) is a talented con-artist who has had a moderately successful career running loan scams. He and his business partner/lover Sydney Prosser (Amy Adams) eventually get caught by undercover FBI agent Richie DiMaso (Bradley Cooper). Irving and Sidney work out a bargain with the Feds, agreeing to help them with a sting operation/scam to capture corrupt politicians, starting with the charismatic mayor of Camden, New Jersey, Carmine Polito (Jeremy Renner).
Writen by Eric Singer and David O. Russell, American Hustle has razor sharp humor, hilarious dialogue, and exciting storytelling. My only gripe, and it’s a small one, is that I wish that Russell made this movie with more of his style and less of Martin Scorsese. Don’t get me wrong. Most people who know me or who have read a lot of my reviews know that Scorsese is my favorite director. This has nothing to do with an aversion to his style. I absolute adore it. I just prefer to see a director, especially one as talented as Russell, to find confidence in his own voice and vision. Sure, the type of movie that this is does lend well to Scorsese filmmaking, but that doesn’t mean that Russell’s methods wouldn’t do it justice either.
Thankfully, Russell’s biting satire and absurdist humor is ever present. So there definitely is enough of his approach to make it less of a Scorsese carbon copy. I absolutely found the story and characters engrossing and thrilling. The cast assembled for this film has not one weak link that I can recall. I can easily see Bale, Cooper, Adams, Renner and Jennifer Lawrence, who portrays Rosenfeld’s wife Rosalyn, winning the Screen Actors Guild Award for Best Cast in a Motion Picture. These actors perfectly nail their parts and never slip in their portrayals. I was particularly impressed with Amy Adams, whose character probably has multiple facets.
This film has multiple facets as well. It serves mainly as a satirical comedy, but there are some superb moments of suspense, drama, and nail biting tension. The movie and its characters even have much heart. I can understand why many critics hail this film as one of the best of the year. I do think it is one of the greats, but unless a film is an homage or tribute, I prefer filmmakers to be fully committed to their own style and voice, especially when they have the gifts to deliver it well.