Twitter Plot Summary: Two con artists are forced to work for a slightly out of control FBI agent.
Five Point Summary:
1. Epic combover.
2. Amy Adams… yup.
3. A Mexican Sheikh?!
4. Live and let die!
5. Who cons the conmen?
American Hustle returns us to the 1970s (well I say us – I never saw them), shortly after Watergate and Vietnam. A hot headed young cop Richie DiMaso (Cooper) wants to make a name for himself by taking down some big names in politics and he enlists the help of con artists Irvin Rosenfeld (Bale) and Sydney Prosser (Adams), who themselves have been in the con artist game for quite some time. Their target is Mayor Carmine Polito (Renner), a big haired and big-hearted politician who’s trying to clean up his city, although his methods aren’t exactly kosher.
It’s great seeing the story, such as it is, gently escalate. As DiMaso’s ambitions get bigger and bigger, Rosenfeld and Prosser realise just how deep the rabbit hole goes, the longer they stay in the game the more trouble they appear to be in. This is emphasised when their scam results in the mob getting involved, and seemingly no way out for our eminent con artists. Events are also made more awkward by Sydney’s flirting with DiMaso, her on-off relationship with Rosenfeld, and the fact he’s married and has an adopted son.
Unsurprisingly given the calibre of the cast, the performances are excellent, each principle actor (and there’s quite a few of them) totally invested in their character. Bale puts in a typically in-depth performance, gaining weight for the role and perfecting an epic comb-over that defines the person that Rosenfeld is. Amy Adams too, is pitch perfect as Prosser, gently lilting between her native American accent and a Lady Penelope-style English accent that forms part of her con artist cover. The mask above the mask, as it were. Then there’s Bradley Cooper as the permed-up, super intense DiMaso, who’s blinded by the prize and fails to see the big picture. On that note, his scenes with Louis CK, playing DiMaso’s boss, are priceless and well worth the price of entry alone. Finally we get to the supporting big name stars, Jeremy Renner as corrupt good guy politician Mayor Polito (big quiff, normal impressive performance) and Jennifer Lawrence as the generally ditzy blonde bombshell wife of Rosenfeld. She steals every scene she’s in, almost effortlessly, but a particular highlight is her rendition of Live and Let Die. In yellow washing up gloves. Perhaps a cinema first, right there. There’s also a great cameo from a genre legend as the mob boss (I will not mention his name just in case folks appreciate the surprise), and on the strength of this performance it’s a shame that he hasn’t done more of this kind of stuff lately. Suffice to say, recent efforts in his movie work have been left wanting.
It’s a relatively long and ponderous film, but not worse off for it. In fact it’s filled with genuine laughs from start to finish. To describe it as a comedy would be incorrect, however – there are funny moments (DiMaso trying to get his boss to tell him the story of the hole in the ice for example), but it’s not laugh a minute. Think of it more as a drama with funny moments. There’s a satisfactory conclusion to the story, where each character has a proper resolution, none of which are arbitrary in any sense, but ultimately this is a film defined by its performances. With this many big name performers it always had potential. Thankfully, it delivers.