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Jacqueline Monahan's Movie Reviews

American Hustle | Christian Bale, Jennifer Lawrence, Amy Adams, Bradley Cooper, Jeremy Renner | Review

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Jacqueline  Monahan

Las Vegas Round The Clock
Jacqueline Monahan is an educator for the GEAR UP program at UNLV.
She is also an entertainment reporter for
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American Hustle | Christian Bale, Jennifer Lawrence, Amy Adams, Bradley Cooper, Jeremy Renner | Review

The words “Some of this actually happened,” flash across the screen, and we're off.

From tacky 70’s fashions to tacky hairpieces to tacky, underhanded investments, the long, strange trip that is American Hustle mesmerizes with a mixture of chutzpah and absurd, quirky charm.  A fictional film based on a true scandal*, American Hustle features one glued-on hairline and several plunging necklines.  Its stunning ensemble cast devours the scenery, resplendent in polyester and perms – and that’s just the guys.

A slick con-artist team comprised of corpulent, faux-haired Irving Rosenfeld (Christian Bale, all of 40 pounds heavier and bald), along with his sharp, seductive faux-British partner Sydney Prosser (Amy Adams, in outfits that need to be taped on to stay legal) are forced to join forces with wildly ambitious FBI agent Richie DiMaso (Bradley Cooper in a home perm) after they are caught red handed in a money-for-nothing investment scheme.

The trio take on corruptible Jersey politicians and the mob, offering millions of dollars and almost as many lies; one involves a Hispanic operative (Michael Peña) posing as an Arab sheik. One of the team’s targets is Carmine Polito (Jeremy Renner in an Elvis ‘do) the passionate, volatile, New Jersey mayor of Atlantic City wants to do good, really, but realizes he needs lots and lots of “bad” money to do it.

Irving's wild-card of a wife, Rosalyn (Jennifer Lawrence, channeling Sharon Stone’s up-do in Casino) stirs up trouble when she lets her highly glossed and very loose lips spill some pertinent information to a mob lackey she’s dating.  Yes, she’s married to Irving, but he’s doing the horizontal mambo with Sydney, who is also doing it with Richie, so why not?

It was the ME generation, after all.

Look for a tiny but tense scene with Robert DeNiro and various literal and figurative briefcases stuffed full of stings, betrayals and plot twists to unravel in this multi-layered depiction of rayon-clad eccentrics on either side of the law.  Even comedian Louis C.K. takes a few for the team as Richie’s long-suffering boss.

Director/writer David O. Russell (Silver Linings Playbook) fashions a stunning, straight-faced satire, amusing in its earnest, over-the-top performances by a fabulous, take-no-prisoners ensemble cast.  Bale and Adams, paired in Russell’s The Fighter, cause passionate sparks to fly, while Cooper and Lawrence (Silver Linings Playbook) dazzle in un-paired, opposite directions. Renner has all of the hair that Bale is missing on top of his character’s heart-of-gold (but easy to bribe) persona.
Along with Russell, co-writer Eric Singer (The International) fashions characters that are complex, conflicted, greedy, kind, dizzy, conniving, slinky, astute, ambitious and amoral.  All at the same time, in some instances.

Off-beat but easy to dance to, it makes all the right moves - and it’s called American Hustle.

*FBI operation “Abscam” (late 1970s, early 1980s) targeted public corruption and led to the conviction of one United States senator, six members of the House of Representatives, one member of the New Jersey State Senate, members of the Philadelphia City Council, and an inspector for the Immigration and Naturalization Service.


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