American Hustle

December 30, 2013 at 5:44 pm | Posted in 2013 | Leave a comment
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“Some of this actually happened.”  Thus states the disclaimer at the beginning of “American Hustle,” David O. Russell’s new film about the Abscam scandal of the late 1970s. That statement not only gives fair warning for any artistic license taken but also sets the tone for the film; for all the seriousness of the subject matter, it is also wryly funny. I knew little about Abscam prior to this film but it was, apparently, even wackier and further reaching than the movie portrays, ultimately bringing down a US senator, 6 representatives, a mayor and couple of other smaller elected officials.  Russell (“Silver Linings Playbook,” “The Fighter,” “Three Kings”) brings together several of his previous partners-in-crime to fill out an all star cast including Christian Bale, Bradley Cooper, Jennifer Lawrence, Amy Adams, and Jeremy Renner. Russell captures the mood of the 70s with lavish costumes (especially on Amy Adams), outrageous hair and a score filled with the likes of Elton John, ELO, & Donna Summer. Russell also manages to get top notch performances from his actors, particularly from Cooper, whose coked-out maniac FBI agent steals most of the scenes he is in. All of the characters in this film are wacky enough and complex enough to be interesting and there are a couple of fun cameos to boot. The story mostly moves along at an entertaining pace, though it drags a bit in the middle and felt a tad over long. Those small quibbles aside, this is a clever movie about a story that could have only happened in the 70s with it’s strange mix of excess and naiveté.  This was a moment in history that would have otherwise been completely forgotten.

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