It's not until two-thirds of the way through American Hustle that the word "Abscam" even comes up.
Because, while David O. Russell's new film is about a fictionalized version of that FBI sting of the late 1970s and early 1980s, it's less about the game itself than about the players. There are a lot of people with their fingers in this particular pie; the question is whether anyone will came away from it with more than a few crumbs.
At heart, American Hustle is about love among con artists - is it ever real? Or is it always a con? And how can you tell the difference?
It's not easy, even for a seasoned operator like Irving Rosenfeld, the second amazing leap Christian Bale has taken as an actor this year, along with Out of the Furnace. Irving is a conman from way back, the kind of guy who runs small-time investment scams, like Bernard Madoff but on a penny-ante scale.
He thinks he's died and gone to heaven when he meets Sydney Prosser (Amy Adams), a fellow con who affects a British accent to play an expatriated Brit who claims to have insider connections to the Bank of England. Together, she and Irving assemble a nice little illegal living from their Long Island office - and a sexy relationship, despite the fact that Irving is married to Rosalyn (Jennifer Lawrence) and has adopted her son.
Things get tricky, however, when Irv and Syd are busted by FBI agent Richie DiMaso (Bradley Cooper), a mama's boy with anger issues who is looking for the big takedown to advance his career.
This review continues on my website.