Good, Bad & Ugly Review: American Hustle

Rotten Tomatoes Rating: 94% (Critics) / 82% (Audience)
Directed By: David O. Russell
Written By: David O. Russell and Eric Singer
Starring: Christian Bale, Amy Adams, Bradley Cooper, Jeremy Renner and Jennifer Lawrence
Studio: Sony Pictures
Synopsis: A con man, Irving Rosenfeld, along with his seductive British partner, Sydney Prosser, is forced to work for a wild FBI agent, Richie DiMaso. DiMaso pushes them into a world of Jersey powerbrokers and mafia. – (Source)

The Good:
AMERICAN HUSTLE is a crime caper, comedy and love story all rolled into one film and it succeeds on all levels in every one of those genres. This success is possible through a combination of David O. Russell’s intelligent script and the awesome performances by every actor from the largest to the smallest part. Most impressive were Christian Bale looking almost unrecognizable as the portly, spectacularly comb-overed hero of the film, Irving Rosenfeld. Amy Adams gave a very quiet and subtle performance as Irving’s soulmate and partner-in-crime who genuinely loved Irving despite his being married to someone else. That someone else being Jennifer Lawrence in a bravura supporting performance where she basically consumed every other actor in every scene she was in through pure strength of will. And Bradley Cooper continues to impress me with his acting as the awful FBI agent who was more interested in personal glory than upholding the law.
I also was very impressed with the costuming and music for this film. A lot of times movies set in the 1970s will fall prey to cheesiness in the costumes and hair but AMERICAN HUSTLE made sure that everyone looked totally authentic in all of the awful glory that was 70s fashion. And the music was great too with some truly inspired choices that were outside of the requisite songs that are constantly used for movies set in this era.

The Bad:
I hated that we only got one scene of Robert DeNiro as a deceptively cagey mobster. He brought some of that old DeNiro gravitas and menace that hasn’t been seen from him in quite some time. It would have been great to see more of that character and DeNiro’s performance.

The Ugly:
I really came away from AMERICAN HUSTLE feeling that the ending was a bit too pat and happy. It was almost as if the film was leading up to a more dour and realistic ending but then the studio did some focus group testing and the downbeat ending didn’t go over too well so they slapped on a happy ending that just felt completely different tonally than the rest of the film to me.

Final Verdict: A smartly written and brilliantly acted movie that hit all the right beats whether comedic, dramatic or romantic up till the ending which felt sorely out of place to me. Despite my issues with the ending I still thoroughly enjoyed AMERICAN HUSTLE and it’s depiction of flawed people looking to realize their ambitions in less than honorable ways.

Grade: B

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