American Hustle (2013)
I had this film stored on the PVR for ages, and just remembered it last night. Released to mainly rave reviews four years ago, this period (1970s) black comedy concerns the activities of some small-time fraudsters in America. Christian Bale and Amy Adams play Irving and Sydney, successful con artists, who are also lovers. During one routine operation, they are caught out by the ambitious FBI agent, Richie DiMaso, (Bradley Cooper) who immediately sees a way to use the hapless duo to further his own career.
He embroils them in a major sting operation, intended to bring down a series of corrupt politicians, and Mafia bigwigs. These include a New Jersey mayor, (Jeremy Renner) and a Mafia hard-man. (A nice cameo from Robert De Niro) Irving is out of his depth. Overweight, suffering from heart problems, sporting a terrible comb-over hairstyle, and caught between his affection for Sydney, and his flaky wife Rosalyn, (Jennifer Lawrence) his whole world starts to unravel. Meanwhile, Richie is facing resistance from his bosses, as his demands for the operation spiral out of control, and he finds himself falling for the charms of Sydney too.
With no spoilers, that’s about it. So, what else? A lot else, actually.
This film is based on real events, with the names changed. It is so well rendered in period, that at times it feels not only like it is set in the 1970s, but was actually made back then too. Bale is amazing as Irving. Getting fat, stressed-out, calling upon all his talents as a con-artist to survive. Amy Adams convinces completely as the sexy sidekick, attracting admiring glances from all around, the perfect diversionary tactic. Yet her loyalty to Irving is never in doubt.
Cooper gets it all right as the obnoxious FBI agent; using curlers in his hair, treating his mother and fiance appallingly, and prepared to step on anyone to get his operation approved. He is impossible to like, and we are not meant to. Jeremey Renner, sporting an incredible Roy Orbison hairstyle, has a good stab at being the misunderstood mayor, just trying to do the best for his people. This was sold as a black comedy, but it has some moments of fine drama. Many moments, in fact. Throw in Lawrence’s portrayal of the wife, De Niro’s coldly terrifying gangster, and you have it all. It’s a really satisfying old-school con-men drama, with an equally satisfying conclusion.
And the soundtrack of contemporary songs is just right too.
It’s not ‘Nine Queens’, but it is very good indeed.