: American Hustle

American Hustle

Finian McGrath

American-Hustle-smDirector: David O Russell; starring: Christian Bale, Bradley Cooper, Amy Adams; Roadshow 2013; 138 mins, available on DVD $25.00

The release of American Hustle just prior to Christmas bucked the general trend that end-of-year film releases lack substance.

Director/co-writer David O Russell returns to the almost classical roots of ‘caper’ movies through his intricately constructed plot and brilliantly devised schemes. Conman Irving Rosenfeld and his seductively charming partner in crime Sydney Prosser provide the genius behind the twisted yet comical theme of political entrapment, as they are thrown into the corrupt New Jersey underworld by unstable FBI agent Richie DiMaso.

The scene was set particularly well by Russell’s immaculate casting which included a transformed Christian Bale as Rosenfeld, an enigmatic and somewhat unhinged Bradley Cooper as DiMaso and Amy Adams as the fraudulent Prosser. Much, however, is owed to Jennifer Lawrence’s intense and volatile character as Rosenfeld’s neglected New Jersey housewife; an unstable character of built-up exasperation, seemingly set on unravelling Irving’s peace of mind throughout the film. She remained the focus for disorganisation throughout a film otherwise centred around organised plans and schemes. Other notable appearances include Robert De Niro as mobster Victor Tellegio, who the overwhelmed trio encountered in their attempt to bring down respected politician and family man, Carmine Polito (Jeremy Renner).

Credit goes to Adam’s performance as Prosser, providing a contrast of dramatic reality against the highly artificial plot — and further adding to the somewhat twisted nature of the movie. Her character’s alter ego, ‘Lady Edith,’ seems no less legitimate than any other character and, despite being little more than a name attached to a cunning and manipulative personality, undoubtedly sculpted the initial tone of the film as one of pretence and perception. The effect of Sydney’s deception would have lost significance were it not for the strong performance of Adams — arguably the standout of the film.

American Hustle gained a reputation for the stereotypically flamboyant nature of the costumes and rightly so. Viewers were plunged even further into the synthetic world of the 70s by use of extensive wardrobes and almost inhumane hairstyles which included Irving Rosenfeld’s elaborate comb-over, intriguingly requiring the use of glue. Richie’s comical perm, too, plunged the audience into the depths of seventies’ stereotypes, provided an amusing twist on the otherwise caper-based film.

Overall, ‘American Hustle’ was a worthwhile film that, while not challenging the mind, provided well constructed and cleverly executed entertainment for a wide audience.

FINIAN McGRATH is a criminology and law student at Griffith University.

(2014) 39(1) AltLJ 68
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