One of the best films featuring con-artists was The Sting. A multiple award winner, it cleverly spun a tale of deception and double-cross. Others have tried to capture its essence with varying results. American Hustle is the latest. The fact that it’s based on true events makes for fascinating viewing. It also proves the art of the con refuses to subside with rampant complicity never going out of style.
FBI agent Richie DiMaso (Bradley Cooper) is a man on a mission. Determined to bring down a cabal of corrupt politicians, he enlists some unlikely partners. Included are Irving (Christian Bale) and Sydney (Amy Adams), con-artists of the highest calibre. Forced to help Richie, they soon run into obstacles. Two of them are Irving’s brash wife Rosalyn (Jennifer Lawrence) and shady political operator Carmine (Jeremy Renner). Using their skills to the best of their abilities, the web they weave soon becomes tangled with many victims ensnared in a trap.
Set in the late 1970’s, American Hustle isn’t just a ‘kitsch fashion and music’-fest. In director David O. Russell’s hands it becomes an engaging character study. The main protagonists wear different types of masks in order to hide their true natures. This loss of identity is also fuelled by rampant egos and increasing danger. Whilst Irving and Sydney initially pride themselves in their nefarious craftsmanship, they soon become out of their depth and question their actions.
These character traits are perfectly embodied by a strong cast. They effectively convey their desperation in achieving their often mis-begotten dreams. The performers’ abilities in switching between comedy and drama are well utilised, adding much to American Hustle’s unpredictability. Although occasionally slow paced it builds to a conclusion as smart and swift as any well-executed con.
American Hustle is a shifty customer worthy of a cinematic outing. Its guessing game in resolving its many entanglements provide most of the fun as it uncovers the art of dubious brinkmanship.
Reviewed by Patrick Moore
Rating out of 10: 8