Mobster Robert De Niro's in an uncredited cameo will shock you in this film. He's riveting, has never been more sinister, and he is funny. His lack of vanity is staggering, but this film belongs to Christian Bale. With his pot belly and toupee Bale will charm you as Irving Rosenfeld, a sleazy con artist. In American Hustle, David Russell's story of mob action in Atlantic City the acting is over the top. The opening sequence with Irving Rosenfeld painstakingly putting on a toupee is jaw dropping. After looking at obese, vulgar Rosenfeld (Bale), who was a former stud as Batman, one knows wild, insane characters will come to Atlantic City and Rosenfeld's crafty, criminal mitts. Sydney Prosser (Amy Adams) as his paramour has never looked sexier, prettier and acted with such wit. She is sharp and to the punch.
Russell's talent as a director of icons of today's cinema makes this film happen. Stars listen to him, want to work with him and everyone shines. The plot is filled with twists, turns and then some. The refreshing, hip dialogue occasionally overlaps as it does in life and not often on the screen. Everyone is filmed to look their best in outrageous costumes and make up, because after all, this is the razzmatazz of crap tables, baccarat, corrupt politicians, mayors for hire and FBI agents out to make a name for themselves. Glamour of the wacky and wonderful underworld. Wonderful because Russell is making us laugh at the foolishness of it all. Good comedy is played for earnestness which De Niro, Bale, Adams, Bradley Cooper, Louis C.K., Jeremy Reiner and Jennifer Lawrence do with aplomb.
American Hustle begins with Rosenfeld who is married to Roselyn Rosenfeld (Jennifer Lawrence) falling in love with Sydney Prosser (Adams). He takes Sydney to his dry cleaning establishment to outfit her in his latest rejects from customers who forgot to pick up their cleaned clothing. That or they didn't want them. Adams is impressed with her new wardrobe choices. One dress looks like a wrap designed by Diane Furstenberg. Irving Rosenfeld explains earnestly to Sydney that he is a con man and Sydney,instead of running from him, falls for him. They create a new con in which Sydney adopts a British accent and the title of Lady. Enter Richie DiMaso (Bradley Cooper) as an ambitious FBI man who wants to make a name for himself and take them down. He wears curlers, Sydney wears curlers and Irving wears his toupee. The plot with a corrupt Mayor Carmine Polito (Jeremy Reiner) is fraught with complicated wire tappings, entrapment and frankly gets too involved. Russell wrote this with Eric Singer, but, at times, I felt that it was in love with itself. Norman Mailer once said, "Chaos is not plot." Well, Norman Mailer was not much of a director. But Russell does make your head spin trying to follow his chaotic plot. Clever it is and at times too cute. Still a fun time was had. Just a bit tiresome in the end. A few too many curlicues. But what masterful performances! The laughs will sustain you, if the plot doesn't.
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