Image copyright © by Marcus Trahan

American Hustle


So now we’ve seen another of the nine films nominated for Best Picture, and this one’s a doozy. I still believe {{Gravity} should have won, but in another year this one would have been a worthy winner.

It was originally titled American Bullshit, and was apparently a pretty accurate re-creation of the whole Abscam business from the early ‘80s. David O. Russell got his hands on it and re-wrote it so that it was sort of “inspired by” Abscam. Changed the names, altered some details, stuff like that. They are open about this. The first thing we see is “Some of this actually happened.” Personally, I like this version better than if they had tried to make it some sort of historical document. It gives everyone plenty of room to play around, invent their own characters. And boy, do they ever. All the principle parts are just wonderfully written (and in some cases, improvised) and acted. Amy Adams, Christian Bale (who porked up fifty pounds for the role), Bradley Cooper, Jeremy Renner, Robert De Niro (uncredited), and Louis C.K. are all terrific, but the best of the lot is Jennifer Lawrence. She is just out of control, in the best sense of the word.

It’s the story of two small-time con artists, Adams and Bale, peacefully running their scams, when they are nailed by an FBI operation. Cooper, who headed the operation, is quite ambitious, and makes a deal with them to take down four other cons. But it quickly escalates as they find evidence that there are shenanigans revolving around the efforts of Renner, the Mayor of Camden, New Jersey, to revitalize Atlantic City. Soon a large number of politicians are taking briefcases full of money, and not long after that the Mob gets involves, in the person of De Niro.

It all gets quite complex, but I followed most of it. Even if I hadn’t, the chief delight here is watching all these actors making these vivid characters come to life. The opening scene is Bale gluing a lot of fake hair to his bald pate, as his stomach bulges out of his trousers. Amy Adams wears a series of dresses cut so low you keep expecting a nipple to escape now and then. Cooper just bounces off the wall with his manic energy. We liked everything about this movie. Highly recommended.