American Hustle, Full Speed Fun

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Went to see American Hustle yesterday at The Grove mall in Hollywood. Though the David O. Russell film began a little slow for me (the art of creating a comb-over, but that could just as easily have been because we were seated in row three in the packed holiday theater) it soon hit its stride, and I was hooked for the ride.

Loosely based on the 1970s Washington D. C. Abscam scandal, but played here as a resurrection of Atlantic City in the same era – with all its fashion and hairstyle excess – the flick proved a master acting class by its four principles, Christian Bale, Amy Adams, Jennifer Lawrence, and Bradley Cooper. Jeremy Renner was also very good as the well-intentioned mayor of Camden, though perhaps a little young for the role of a long- time, big-familied Italian mayor.

But it was Bale, as Bronx-born scam artist Irving Rosenfeld, and Lawrence as his ditz of a wife, who were beyond superb. The emaciated Bale that we saw in Russell’s The Fighter was all but invisible beneath the tortured comb-over,toupee,and 40 pounds of extra girth the actor packed on for this role.

Like the cameo-appearing Robert DeNiro, here playing a menacing mob boss, who famously gained 50 pounds for his landmark 1980 performance in Raging Bull, Bale has the drive and skill to completely disappear within his characters, in this case a con artist who also ran a legit string of dry cleaners in NYC.

Amy Adams plays Sydney Prosser, Irving’s seductive, anthing goes partner-in-crime and lover with a desperate fierceness, while Jennifer Lawrence lifts the role of Irving’s emotionally fragile, but strong-willed wife to an Oscar podium level.

Spring-coiffed Bradley Cooper matches his co-stars pace as an overly ambitious FBI agent who is  more ruthless than those he’s out to convict  And after he snares Bale and Adams in their money laundering scam, he forces them into a set up to lure corrupt New Jersey pols via a Arab sheik funded ploy to resurrect Atlantic City (the Abscam connection). The scam was to catch the pols for fast-tracking the sheik’s U. S. citizenship in exchange for bribes.

That Bale, Lawrence,and Cooper had recently worked with director Russell in The Fighter (Bale) and Silver Linings Playbook (Lawrence and Cooper) was evident throughout, as the cast seemed to be having as much fun making the film as the audience had in consuming it.

Challengingly co- written and directed by Russell — the plot twists are not always easy to follow — but daringly acted by the A-list ensemble cast, American Hustle seems headed toward a spring run through the 2014 award’s season. Four Stars.

END

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