Is it even possible for a David O. Russell-directed drama with Jennifer Lawrence, Christian Bale, Bradley Cooper, Amy Adams, and Jeremy Renner to fall flat on its face? Apparently.
“Some of this really happened,” the movie claims as it opens. Based on the FBI ABSCAM operation of the late 1970’s, American Hustle finds Irving (Bale) and Sydney (Adams) quickly becoming lovers and operating quick cons on unsuspecting investors. But when they get discovered by agent Richie DiMasso (Cooper), they are forced into helping the FBI catch other con artists if they ever want to walk free again.
What follows is a meandering high-stakes drama with one of the finest ensemble casts a director could ever ask for. All of the performances are excellent (and the soundtrack is fantastic), but that’s about where the praise ends.
American Hustle is slow, wandering, and unfunny. It sure looks great, but it’s bloated, self-indulgent, and shallow. It’s so preoccupied with making sure it comes off “hip” that it forgets to make sure it’s actually entertaining: it’s rarely as fun and lively as it hopes to be. And for as much as I absolutely adore Jennifer Lawrence, David O. Russell has once again cast her in a role she is simply too young for. As great as her performance is, it’s hard to buy the 23-year-old starlet as the much older Christian Bale’s wife.
After the incredibly fun Silver Linings Playbook that David O. Russell, Jennifer Lawrence, and Bradley Cooper brought us last year, American Hustle can only be seen as a letdown. The story seems like a series of plot contrivances in order to get the characters to interact with one another… which might be okay, if the characters were actually worth caring about.
American Hustle is a monotonous, borderline-boring retelling of what should have been a fun, energetic crime story set in the 1970’s. Trying too hard to be Martin Scorsese-like, it comes off as unoriginal and contrived, full of incredible actors playing uninteresting characters.
American Hustle is rated R for “ language, sexual content, and brief violence.” The language is heavy, and a handful of sexual references are made. Amy Adams’ character wears a number of revealing dresses that leave little to the imagination, and two characters talk about when they are finally going to go “all the way” with each other. Only appropriate for older audiences.
© Matt Tory, 2013.