David O. Russell has done it again! After the director’s success with last year’s romance-drama Silver Linings Playbook, Russell puts his own spin on “ABSCAM” a well-publicized scandal from the late 70s. The storyline behind American Hustle is quite complicated and difficult to summarize in a sentence or two but I will try my best.
Irving Rosenfeld (Christian Bale) is a con artist whose partner-in-crime – former stripper Sydney Prosser (Amy Adams) – is also his mistress. The duo are caught by FBI agent Richard DiMaso (Bradley Cooper) and coerced to assist DiMaso in arresting four other con-artists. However, the sting operation that Rosenfeld eventually comes up with involves a fake sheik and the mayor of Camden, Carmine Polito (Jeremy Renner).
Alright so it seems deceptively simple. And in fact, the film opens with Rosenfled ‘fixing’ his hair as he prepares what he hopes will be the conclusion of the sting. The first Act of the film is rather ponderous as the main characters (i.e. Rosenfeld, Prosser and DiMaso) are introduced via flashbacks and internal monologues and the audience discovers how the sting operation was put together.
However, from that point onwards, once the storyline truly takes off, the movie delves into the myriad relationships amongst the characters that shape the plot: Rosenfeld’s difficulties with his psychotic wife, Rosalyn (Jennifer Lawrence), Prosser’s exploitation of DiMaso’s feelings for her, Rosenfeld’s genuine friendship with Polito, DiMaso’s volatile relationship with his superior Stoddard Thorsen (Louis C.K.) and ultimately the true love shared between Rosenfeld and Prosser.
The screenplay is razor sharp (co-written by Russell and Eric Warren Singer), the acting is immaculate (both Bale and Adams deserve Oscar nominations), the music is spot-on (70s fare e.g. Steely Dan, ELO, Wings, Elton John, Donna Summer etc) and Russell pieces the various components brilliantly into a highly entertaining, heartfelt and thought-provoking film.