American Hustle

Dec 21, 2013

Could be the best movie of the year if it can move off stage the gravity of 12 Years a Slave.

American Hustle

Grade: A

Director: David O. Russell (Silver Linings Playbook)

Screenplay: Russell, Eric Singer (The International)

Cast: Christian Bale (Out of the Furnace), Amy Adams (The Fighter)

Rating: R

Runtime: 129 min.

by John DeSando

“Some of this actually happened.” (Sign at the opening of the film)

Part noir, part comedy, part ‘70’s, and part comedy, American Hustle has all the elements of a classic crime drama and satire.  Winner of the New York Film Critics Circle best picture, screenplay, and supporting actress (Amy Adams), it’s one of the best films of the year if not the most entertaining. As the plot about cons conning cons thickens, the film gets only more enjoyable until no one cares who’s fooling whom.

Irving (Christian Bale), a career con man, meets Sydney (Amy Adams), a lady in need of a career change. Bale’s comb over is one for the books and not a bad metaphor for the keeping-up-appearances game played by almost everyone.  From their brilliantly deceptive minds emerges a lucrative loan business thriving on their ability to extract a $5000 fee without delivering the anticipated but never materialized $50,000.

Their eventual involvement with the FBI in the ABSCAM operation adds complexity and a measure of humor. It’s not a close rendering of that operation, just inspired by it.

The real joy is the excellent ensemble acting, from Jennifer Lawrence as a smart floozy, Bradley Cooper as a sometimes clueless agent, and Jeremy Renner as a big-hearted not always bright Camden, N.J., mayor. Director David O. Russell proves once again that he can mix humor and drama, e.g., Three Kings and Silver Linings Playbook, with equal success.

By the way, I can’t remember seeing any blood considering the rough factions vying for success in their chosen fields. More serious films with plenty of violence like 12 Years a Slave are likely to trump American Hustle, but you won’t enjoy any other ’13 film better. Come to think of it, we’re all one way or another part of the American hustle, that drive to succeed even if it means cutting a corner or two to get there.  Don’t cut this corner—enjoy American Hustle.

John DeSando hosts WCBE 90.5’s It’s Movie Time and co-hosts Cinema Classics, which can be heard streaming and on-demand at Contact him at