No matter what anyone tells you, AMERICAN HUSTLE is one of THE best movies of the year. And it was shot in Boston (standing in for New Jersey)– so it was a kick to see the gilded Wang Theater lobby and environs decked out as a swank gambling hall for one of the film’s climactic moments! The movie opens with a shot of a bloated Christian Bale standing in front of a mirror meticulously arranging an elaborate toupee/comb-over. The whole movie is like that: layer upon layer of fakery, some of it hilarious, all of it ingenious. So hang onto your hair and pay attention to the details lest you get caught with your brain exposed.
David O. Russell directs a killer cast 70’s style: the intense and versatile Christian Bale as Irving Rosenfeld a con man sleazy enough to smash windows to cook up customers for his glass company, but smart enough not to fool himself; Amy Adams as Sydney Prosser, a would-be “Brit wit” and Irving’s smoldering partner in crime; a be-curled Bradley Cooper as Richie DiMaso an ambitious nit wit FBI agent who employs Rosenfeld’s skills in order to con and convict some New Jersey politicos (a sympathetic Jeremy Renner as Carmine Polito); and finally the gloriously goofy, sexy Jennifer Lawrence as Irving’s wife Rosalyn who may blow the whole operation to smithereens– on account of she has an egg beater for a brain and everything flies out of her mouth scrambled.
The film turns around and around on itself, but is sleekly plotted enough to tie up all the loose ends so you can still unravel them and feel satisfied. A sudden and uncredited appearance by an iconic screen badfella ratchets up the suspense in an already tense sequence involving an ersatz Arab sheik in a room full of shady characters. At any moment the whole “Abscam,” within a scam, within a scam feels like it’s going to implode, but this script just won’t let go, taking yet another screwy turn into murky, mafioso-infested waters, while micro relationships brew among the four leads threatening to boil over, and Louis C.K. propels a run-on fable about ice fishing into deeply fatuous waters.
I was glued, and loved spotting the locals who popped up in bit parts: radio man J.J. Wright, newsman Jim Boyd, theater actor Steven Barkhimer, and many more. AMERICAN HUSTLE is a sharp, funny bit of flimflammery. No fooling.