American Hustle is a fictionalized adaptation of the FBI’s ABSCAM operation starring Christian Bale, Amy Adams, and Bradley Cooper, but does it dupe it’s audience out of their admission?
In the 1970s, America saw some rough times. The Vietnam War was very unpopular, Arab tensions had everyone uneasy and politicians were getting a bad name following the Watergate scandal. Up through 1970, only a handful of politicians had ever been convicted of accepting bribes. The FBI, however, knew there were backdoor deals going on, they just didn’t know how to catch them. Then in 1978, the Bureau began ABSCAM, an undercover operation using a convicted con artist to catch dirty politicians.
American Hustle gives the audience a little sampling of life and politics during the 1970s, which for many viewers is ancient history. Bale plays a successful conman, Irving Rosenfeld, who falls in love with Sydney Prosser, played by Amy Adams. The two continue their con game, taking money from anyone desperate enough to fall for their scam. Until that is, they fall victim to their own game and are roped into doing the bidding of the FBI in exchange for a lesser punishment.
Bale, who is known for not taking shortcuts, spared no expense or humiliation when he prepared for this role. His accent, mannerisms and comb-over cement his character. Bradley Cooper exemplifies the power hungry FBI Agent with his over the top tantrums, plus he wears curlers. Amy Adams is solid as always. In a world dominated by men, she shows the real power of a woman. And Jennifer Lawrence breaks out of her Hunger Games shell and manages to put together a good performance.
The film crew does a good job of setting the story and making it truly believable. Costuming is very appropriate and doesn’t glamourize the bell-bottoms of most ’70s era films. The Plaza Hotel, New Jersey casinos and the residential neighborhoods are setup wonderfully. Even the lesser roles are setup well to really give you the feel of being around some shady characters.
Where American Hustle tends to fall short is in the script, or length of the script. At a touch over two hours, the film seems to drag on a times. Plenty of time is spent showing the many levels of involvement by US politicians with their ultimate capture over in a matter of seconds. A strange moment in the film was the introduction of a character played by Robert De Niro. Either he needed a few more stack of cabbage before retirement or he was sitting around bored a home as his involvement with the story was very little and the role could have been played by almost anyone else with the same effect.
Overall, this was a good movie – several ups and downs with a twist or two. The lack of any real intense action will most likely keep American Hustle from the same numbers Wolf of Wall Street will see. American Hustle is not a complete disappointment, but it just doesn’t fully satisfy.