Film | American Hustle – Great performances, great hair

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Image: Atlas Entertainment

4/5 Stars

While reading Peter Bradshaw’s review of American Hustle in the Guardian, I noticed that the critic made a mistake when he said that there’s no British equivalent of this film. Evidently, Bradshaw has never seen the BBC con-artist comedy drama Hustle. If you’re familiar with the tone and content of that show, you’ll have some idea about what David O Russell’s latest offering is up to.

American Hustle tells the story of two grifters who are caught by the FBI and forced to expose corrupt local officials in return for their release. The resulting caper is chaotic. Fake sheikhs, crooked Congressmen, a mayor with hair to rival Boris Johnson and the Italian mafia combine to make a story where it’s never clear whether the sting will work, or end in disaster.

Top marks must go to the people in charge of the costumes and sets. This is a very 70s movie, with Christian Bale’s con-artist Irving Rosenfeld sporting a comb-over, big glasses, loose morals and colourful suits, and co-star Bradley Cooper complete with curlers. Nothing is too ostentatious though. The film recreates it’s 1978 setting very naturally.

The best thing about the film however is how the story is about more than just the hustle itself. It’s about how four people over the course of the drama come to love and hate each other. Jennifer Lawrence as Irving’s highly strung wife Rosalyn gives a riotous performance which could win her a second Oscar. Amy Adams conquers a tricky balancing act as the slinky Sydney Prosser, Irving’s lover and sidekick, who fools willing victims with a wobbly British accent. Their co-star Bradley Cooper, also of Silver Linings Playbook fame, is exceptional too, as the cop who gets constantly inflamed by his boss refusing to tell the moral of a Michigan ice-fishing trip he once took.

It’s a movie where every character is a bastard, but the mafia come out quite well. Nothing fits into the conventional place except the delight you’ll get from watching it.

Harry Wise

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