FBI agent Richie DiMaso (Bradley Cooper) blackmails conman Irving Rosenfeld (Christian Bale) and his mistress Sydney Prosser (Amy Adams) into helping him take down the mayor of New Jersey, Carmine Polito (Jeremy Renner). But soon the investigation expands its net to take in influential members of congress who are also on the take. But Irving’s unsuspecting wife Rosalyn (Jennifer Lawrence) is caught in the middle as she becomes friends with the mayor and his wife. Can these scammers still complete their jobs in the face of the FBI, without alerting suspicion to those they are looking to take down?
Taking its lead from the ABSCAM affair that occurred in the 1970’s & 80’s, American Hustle is crafted in a way to initially make you believe everything you see onscreen. But after a while and several interjecting twists, the surface gets scratched and we soon learn that everything is not what it seems.
Director David O.Russell immediately throws you in the story and delves deeper into the con job. Yet this huge task requires a large set up, but it never feels like we are overloaded with additional people or storylines. Instead we sit and slowly take in all that is being thrown at us. It works thanks to a quick-fire script that spits out lines so rapidly that it only slows down occasionally to allow us to catch up with what’s been running.
American Hustle doesn’t rely on style to keep it interesting, it has plenty of substance from the actors each having a unique entry into each situation. As a group, they are the epitome of a perfect con gang but separately they are like lambs lost in the fog. The film benefits from having such a large ensemble cast that everyone instantly clicks with each other and within their own character.
One other huge benefit American Hustle has is the styling from the decades it plays out through. Everybody is beautifully dressed – especially the men with dapper suits that hang off their frames with style and grace. Christian Bale’s Irving Rosenfield gets the best pick of those and manages to look elegant throughout. The ladies ooze sexuality in their tight fitting, open to the waist clothes that would make any mortal drool as they make their way through the film.
Beyond the clothes, it’s also about the hair styles, with the film creating some of the most elaborate hairstyles seen on mainstream film. Rosenfield’s comb-over is eerily similar to Rab C Nesbitt in the Hamlet adverts from the 1980’s. DiMaso benefits from one of the tightest perms ever adhered on a human head and its fun to see him with his curlers in. Carmine Polito has a wonderful quiff that seems to go on forever.
But once again it’s the girls who rule the styling, with their haircuts being works of art. Prosser’s long free flowing curls entranced us more and more, and Rosalyn Rosenfield has a hair that must have been sculptured from clay as it sits atop of her head without any movement.
The Fatback band once sang “Do The Spanish Hustle”, well David O Russell can now claim the American Hustle as his own. A wonderfully crafted film that benefits from excellent casting all round and a con job that will have you re-watching to see what you missed the first time.