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American Hustle


Year: 2013 
Running Time:
Aspect Ratio: 2.39:1 (Scope) 
Certificate: BBFC 15 Cert – Not suitable for under 15s 
Subtitles: This film is not expected to be subtitled, though this cannot be guaranteed. 
Directed by David O. Russell 
Starring: Christian Bale, Amy Adams, Bradley Cooper  
An image from American Hustle

As the 1970s draw to a close, the happy affair of New Jersey-based con artists Irving Rosenfeld (Christian Bale) and Sydney Prosser (Amy Adams) is blooming, both in romantic and business terms. Only two snags threaten their union: the first being Irving’s unbalanced wife Rosalyn (Jennifer Lawrence), who refuses to grant him a divorce. The second is that the two shady customers have been rumbled by aspirational FBI agent Richard DiMaso (Bradley Cooper). The latter issue lands the pair in something of a stranglehold: in exchange for a waived sentence, they must team up with DiMaso in an attempt to uncover the wider corruption of the city’s political system. A shaky agreement is made, and so begins a high-stakes hustle, and it seems unlikely that all parties will be able to emerge as mutually victorious.

Although American Hustle encompasses a range of culture pops in its scope, the focus is primarily on the four players at its centre, and the multifaceted bind that they find themselves in. The methods of the quartet increasingly blur the line between the logical and the utterly reprehensible, and the whole thing soon becomes a petty squabble for autonomy. Furthermore, something of a “love rectangle” arises as the group’s internal relationships begin to chip away at the fluidity of the operation.

As demonstrated in both The Fighter and Silver Linings Playbook, David O. Russell is a filmmaker who thrives on examinations of dysfunction, and the barbed patter between his four leads powers American Hustle with fierce - and frequently hilarious - results. Bale and Cooper share some excellent sparring moments, but the sharpest exchanges are drawn from the bad blood boiling between Adams’ Sydney and Lawrence’s Rosalyn. The plot itself is a labyrinthine construct of double bluffs and underhand tactics, and as such, viewers must keep their wits about them in order to keep up with its frequent twists and turns.

That being said, it remains a hoot in spite of its density, packing a plethora of highly entertaining beats which tie the whole thing together. Ridiculously outlandish hairpieces, combustible microwave ovens, Cooper’s sublime impression of Louis CK… Featuring all these and more, American Hustle stands as a riotous, morally unhinged caper, and is well worth doing business with.

Michael Perry

From the writer/director of The Fighter and Silver Linings Playbook comes this crime drama with a wicked streak of humour, taking place in the decade of bad hair, even worse clothes, but great music; the 1970’s.

Based loosely on the FBI ABSCAM operation in the 1970’s, Christian Bale plays the brilliant con-man Irving Rosenfield, who along with his lover (Adams) conducts many a high stake scheme. However, they soon find themselves recruited by the FBI to enter a dangerously captivating world of corrupt Government officials and the Mafia. Led by FBI agent Richie DiMaso (Cooper), the investigation delves into the world of New Jersey powerbrokers, eventually involving the Mayor of Camden Carmine Polito (Renner), a man who finds himself in a difficult position between the con artists and the FBI. As the investigation grows more complex and dangerous, the key to the success of the operation lies in the most unlikely of places; Irving’s estranged wife Rosalyn (Lawrence).

If the director and hugely talented cast were not enticing enough, American Hustle looks also to be an intriguing and unique perspective on the American Dream. The America of American Hustle is a much different world of opportunity to what America was founded on, with the main aim being to succeed, without caring who you screw over.

Russell conducts the proceedings with a fine eye for period detail, and the highly acclaimed script by himself and Eric Warren Singer looks set to turn the heads of Academy voters in the Awards season. For a star-studded, captivating study of the American state of mind, you can do no better than the work of David O. Russell and the world of American Hustle.

Andrew Gaudion

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Screenings of this film:

2013/2014 Summer Term (digital)
2013/2014 Summer Term (digital)