Like an old yo-yo fitted with a new string, ”American Hustle” isn’t anything the ‘plex hasn’t played before, but with an energized David O.Russell screenplay and a slab of James Lipton-friendly performances, it sure will rock the cinemagoer’s cradle.
The green room of Elton John’s Oscar party comes together to produce a ‘Best of Show’ reel for one of today’s most interesting and customarily-diverse filmmakers. A full hopscotch-square in-front of his dissimilar but equally bravura ”Silver Linings Playbook”, O.Russell’s Grifters-with-flares takes less of a cue from reality than his previous push-outs, and instead pinches a few answers from the mum and pop con-movie libretto. Some of today’s best performers – whose good looks have been raped by an evil make-up department (and, in Amy Adams case, a chap who shouldn’t be left alone with sharp scissors and already-skimpy dresses)- are on hand to convincingly persuade audiences they’ve never seen anything like O’Russell’s ‘you just got Punk’d, Punk’ flick before (though they have).
Like an AFL team made completely of Ablett clones, “American Hustle” is one of those rare beasts that features faultless, all-engaging performances from every member of its spotless cast. From Christian Bale’s disheveled drop-kick con to Jennifer Lawrence’s dimish, deprived housewife, Cooper’s cocksure but sloppy detective, Adams’ savvy, sexy ride-taker, and Jeremy Renner’s decadent but likeable politician (see, fantasy film!), everyone’s so tightly terrific you’d swear guns were pressed against the noggins of the troupe, demanding they bring their A-game for each sequence – or else the on-set chipmunk would get it.
135 minutes of Bedrock-solid, classy entertainment, O.Russell’s saga-of-scheming follows Irv Rosenfeld (Christian Bale, complete with a hair pierce and plastic gut that both offer stellar turns) and mistress Sydney Prosser (Amy Adams, now with 25% extra cleavage), a couple of whiz-bang con artists who work their way up from smallish stings to the biggest of big scores. Though their plight to win the ‘robbers of the year’ award is temporarily derailed by undercover fed Richie DiMaso (Bradley Cooper, whose hair seems to have been haunted by an early ’80s Michael Jackson), the duo quickly resume duties when the law brings them aboard an internal sting operation.
If ”The Expendables” was a throwback to ’80s shite, then “American Hustle” is a return to ’70s ‘right’. Like a compilation album of the best bits from Scorsese, De Palma and Friedkin in one, it’s a trip with the doc back to a time when films were less about the razzle and dazzle, and more about the grit, grime, gripping yarns and grandiose performances.The only thing’s exploding here are fiery thesp turns, yo! O.Russell’s film exists to entertain, sure, but it’s also there to remind Hollywood that not every potential modern-day hitmaker has to feature James Franco and Smoke Halos.