“American Hustle” might not boast the most thrilling story line that has ever made it to big screen and it also may not have the slap-your-forehead moment at the end that leaves you bewildered and stunned.
What it does give you, however, is two hours and eight minutes of absolutely brilliant acting.
Hustle is summed by IMDB.com as “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 power brokers and mafia.”
Sometimes it is the story that drives the characters, right? This case is the opposite. With each and every passing scene, characters take hold of you and draw you into the story.
The brightest two of the bunch are actresses Amy Adams and Jennifer Lawrence. Adams plays the part of Prosser, a lost soul who finds her mate in Christian Bale’s Rosenfeld. Rosenfeld, though, just happens to be married to Lawrence’s character, Rosalyn, and the three create a unique yet also oddly formed love triangle that leaves you caring about all three of them. And, without spoiling anything, the bathroom scene between Adams and Lawrence steals the moment that is happening outside the bathroom as the plot thickens.
Adams is simply brilliant — perhaps the best I’ve ever seen her — and she could certainly be up for an award for this part. Adams resume is more often than full of light-hearted fare like “Enchanted” and “Trouble With The Curve.” This is a much darker role and she embraces the emotion of it perfectly. Becoming the sexy and sultry, not to mention broken, Sydney Prosser shows she can act as somebody other than herself and hopefully Hollywood will grasp again in the future.
Lawrence’s character is crazy, but vastly different so than her take as a woman with mental issues in “Silver Linings Playbook.” It was more toned down, more emotionally kept in, but Lawrence is an actress who has shown she can shine in any part. Hunger Games might be her big money ticket to the top, but its roles like Rosalyn that leave her fans hungry for more of her.
I’ve never been a big Christian Bale fan, but his turn as Rosenfeld isn’t bad. It’s certainly believable and you do feel bad for him at times. And the fact Bale gained a lot of weight to play the part of this con man was impressive. What I couldn’t get away from, however, was there were a few scenes and mannerisms where it felt that Bale was trying to pull out some Robert DeNiro — which, if you do notice, you’re not quite as surprised as the mid-movie cameo of a mobster from Florida who shows up.
Bradley Cooper also stars as DiMaso, the FBI agent who is so hungry to make a name for himself that he’ll step on anybody to get what he wants. His scenes with Adams do include a little bit of forced sexual tension, but his best scenes are filled with the comic relief, including a couple with comedian Louis C.K., who shows his own strong acting chops as DiMaso’s FBI boss. Just don’t be let down by the fact that you never heard the end of the ice fishing story.
To me, though, the person who steals the movie is Jeremy Renner. We’ve seen Renner as the war hero (The Hurt Locker) and the action-packed adventure star (Mission Impossible-Ghost Protocol and The Bourne Legacy) and now we get to see Renner act in a part you don’t expect from him. When Mayor Carmine Polito makes his first appearance in the film, your reaction is, “I know that actor. Who is he?” Well, he’s a guy who could get a supporting actor nod, perhaps?
The story is line is enough to keep you interested and, in the end, everything gets wrapped up into a tidy little package.
Walking out of the theater, though, it is the characters who stay with you and that’s credit to the actors doing such a great job.