Friday, December 20, 2013

American Hustle

With 'American Hustle,' David O. Russell loses the charming momentum of 'The Fighter' and 'Silver Linings Playbook.' Made for for folks who want to agree with trendy pretentious critic circle awards.

Rated R for pervasive language, some sexual content and brief violence.

American Hustle

I fell in love with David O. Russell the moment I laid eyes on his work. It was 1999. Both Mark Wahlberg and George Clooney were becoming big-screen stars, so with a more than appealing story, I went to see Three Kings. None of my friends were free, so I went alone and loved it. From then on, I’ve anticipated every project. Unfortunately, American Hustle is the first let-down.

Christian Bale leads the Hustle ensemble as Irving Rosenfeld, a balding man with a nasty comb-over and a knack for conning. After a brief intro, he offers a voice-over narration of his a career scheme prior to be introduced to his lover and accomplice Sydney (Amy Adams). We’re shown how the two meet and fall in love. These romantic bits are stunning, truly convincing, but after 15 minutes, we’re finally clued into more of Irving’s life – he’s married. Suddenly, this couple turns into anti-hero characters that we previously connected with become unlikable. Sadly, we never connect with them again. Instead, we connect with Irving’s wife, Rosalyn (Jennifer Lawrence) – which is unique because she’s manipulative and conniving in her own manner. She’s played like the classic fool, so we empathize with her. This example is just the beginning of flaws.

While taking their illegitimate business to the next level, Irving and Sydney catch the attention of FBI agent Richie DiMaso (Bradley Cooper), who quickly busts them and agrees to lessen their punishment if they help prove the corruption of a Jersey politician (Jeremy Renner). From this point on, American Hustle turns into an exponentially growing jumbled mess. The story is weak and muddled. The characters become inconsistent, even dabbling in the silly and ridiculous.

I walked out of American Hustle feeling nothing. The only part that remained with me was the Jennifer Lawrence subplot – and mostly because she gave a stunning performance. It’s empty, lacking in every area. The trailers make it look grand, but don’t fall for it. American Hustle will only leave you hollow.

(Photo credit: Sony Pictures)

3 out of 5

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