American Hustle (2013)

DAVID O. RUSSELL

Bil’s rating (out of 5): BB.5

USA, 2013.  , , .  Screenplay by , David O. Russell.  Cinematography by .  Produced by , , , .  Music by .  Production Design by .  Costume Design by .  Film Editing by , , .  

The Abscam affair of the late seventies is re-enacted in this middling comedy, one with a few laughs and some enjoyable caricatures to punctuate a slow pace and uneven direction.   Christian Bale is a career con artist who stows young wife Jennifer Lawrence at home while parading around town with his partner in crime Amy Adams.  When the two get busted by federal officer Bradley Cooper, they agree to help him bring down crooked politicians in return for leniency, putting on wires and dragging congressmen and a New Jersey mayor (Jeremy Renner) with grand ambitions into a complicated scheme involving payoffs for economy-boosting casinos.

It’s admirable that director David O. Russell avoids the kind of slick moves that glossier films like Oceans Eleven trade off on, and it presents the seventies with a minimal level of Boogie Nights kitsch, but there also isn’t much to make up for the lack of narrative pizzazz.  The performances are all terrific, but a group of actors prepared to bust out and really show off their juicy characters are bridled in by a story that always feels like it’s still at the beginning of a great caper.  Cooper is the standout of the bunch, hilariously energetic and unself-consciously foolish as the straight arrow trying to go crooked in an effort to be a cool dude, while Robert De Niro shows them all how it’s done in a terrific unbilled cameo.

Academy Award Nominations:  Best Picture; Best Actor (Christian Bale); Best Actress (Amy Adams); Best Supporting Actor (Bradley Cooper); Best Supporting Actress (Jennifer Lawrence); Best Director (David O. Russell); Best Original Screenplay; Best Production Design; Best Costume Design; Best Film Editing

Golden Globe Awards:  Best Picture-Musical/Comedy; Best Actress-Musical/Comedy (Amy Adams); Best Supporting Actress (Jennifer Lawrence)
Nominations: Best Actor-Musical/Comedy (Christian Bale); Best Supporting Actor (Bradley Cooper); Best Director (David O. Russell); Best Screenplay

Screen Actors Guild Award:  Outstanding Motion Picture Cast
Nominations: Best Supporting Actress (Jennifer Lawrence)

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