East Penn Press

Monday, February 24, 2020

Movie Review: SAG does the 'Hustle'

Wednesday, January 22, 2014 by PAUL WILLISTEIN pwillistein@tnonline.com in Focus

Irving Rosenfeld has a comb-over like you wouldn't believe.

We get to see Irving, played by Christian Bale, meticulously prepare his coif before be attends an important meeting.

That opening scene is worth the price of admission to "American Hustle."

And that's not to take away from the many hilarious, heart-rending and wild scenes in the crime caper comedy directed by David O. Russell ("Silver Linings Playbook," 2012).

Russell has assembled an aces cast of young actors from his "Playbook," as well as "The Fighter" (2010), one of his other critically-acclaimed films.

"American Hustle" and "Gravity" led the 2014 Oscar nominees Jan. 16 announcements, with 10 Oscar nominations for each film. "12 Years A Slave" received nine nominations. "Captain Phillips," "Dallas Buyers Club" and "Nebraska" each received six nominations.

"American Hustle" won the Screen Actors Guild (SAG) motion picture cast award Jan. 18.

As with "Silver Linings Playbook," it's the second year in a row that a film Russell directed received Oscar nominations in all four actor categories.

"American Hustle" is an amalgam of the "hustle" of the 1970s, not so much the dance of that decade though there is that as the lifestyle.

It's kind of a bookend to that other true story based film about hustling, "The Wolf of Wall Street," but set a decade or two later.

"American Hustle" uses the 1970's Abscam (Arab Scam), which involved an "Arab sheik," government officials, a briefcase full of bribe money, and hidden videotape surveillance cameras, as the jump-off point for the film.

"Some of this actually happened," a title card informs us at the beginning of "American Hustle." Hold onto your popcorn. It's going to be a bumpy ride.

Irving Rosenfeld (Christian Bale) is a small-time hustler who runs a dry cleaning business and takes everyone he can to the cleaners.

Irving is married to Rosalyn (Jennifer Lawrence), with whom he has a child, but that doesn't stop him from having a girlfriend named Sydney (Amy Adams).

Bradley Cooper plays Richie DiMaso, an FBI agent who sees crime-busting as a career opportunity

DiMaso reels in Irving and Sydney on his way to landing bigger fish, as he plies the waters of New Jersey politics, namely, Mayor Carmine Polito (Jeremy Renner).

"American Hustle" is all about the con. Nearly everyone is conning someone. Some are even double conning. "Leave out the ugly truth," it's said.

Amy Adams is fearless as Sydney, a young woman affecting a British accent. Adams is able to convey the ruthless nature of the character she portrays while simultaneous maintaining a vulnerability and red-hair ringleted innocence that makes one feel sorry for her. That's the con.

Christian Bale, who gained 40 pounds for the role, is almost unrecognizable as Irving. Bale creates a schlubby kind of guy and that makes the character he plays all the more believable and even loveable. That's the con.

Bradley Cooper is as tightly wound as the curls of his perm. Cooper captures a sincerity, energy and self-righteousness that makes him seem to be one of the good guys. That's the con.

Jennifer Lawrence is a revelation as Rosalyn, a tough-talking, somewhat mindless, yet good-hearted gal. Lawrence channels the directness of those housewives of New Jersey. Her neediness is a bottomless pit. That's not a con.

Jeremy Renner makes a convincing mayor who just wants the best for his city and constituents. That's how he got conned.

Fine in supporting roles are Louis C.K. as an FBI agent and Michael Pena as an Arab Sheik.

Russell ("I Heart Huckabees," 2004; "Three Kings," 1999) has developed a loosey-goosey style of directing, which emphasizes character interplay. There's stinging dialogue and considerable insight in the "American Hustle" screenplay he co-wrote with Eric Singer ("The International," 2009).

"You're nothing to me until you're everything," it's said.

The corny 1970s fashions, interior decor, cars and New York City locales are characters unto themselves, adding to the film's wacky fun.

The soundtrack has a bevy of mostly high-energy 1970's hit songs in a variety of genres that will keep you humming and toe-tapping along.

"American Hustle" is a guilty pleasure. It's sheer cinematic entertainment. That's not a con. Do the "Hustle."

"American Hustle," MPAA Rated R (Restricted. Children Under 17 Require Accompanying Parent or Adult Guardian.) for pervasive language, some sexual content and brief violence; Genre: Crime, Drama; Run time: 2 hrs, 18 min.; Distributed by Columbia Pictures-Sony.

Credit Readers Anonymous: Robert De Niro plays Victor Tellegio, a Florida mobster, in an uncredited role in "American Hustle."

Box Office, Jan. 17: Oscar nominees didn't get much of a bump from the Jan. 16 announcements, as "Ride Along" drove to No. 1, opening with a strong $41.2 million during the long Martin Luther King Jr. holiday weekend, dropping "Lone Survivor" to No. 2, with $23.2 million, $74 million, four weeks, keeping the animation family feature film, "The Nut Job," at No. 3, opening with $20.6 million, and the reboot of the Tom Clancy novel series character, "Jack Ryan; Shadow Recruit," at No. 4, opening with a disappointing $17.2 million.

5. "Frozen" (two Oscar nominations: animated film, song: "Let It Go"), $12 million, $332 million, nine weeks; 6. "American Hustle" (10 Oscar nominations: picture, director: David O. Russell, original screenplay: Russell, Eric Singer, actor male: Christian Bale, actor female: Amy Adams, supporting actor male: Bradley Cooper, supporting actor female: Jennifer Lawrence, and costume, production design, editing), $10.6 million, $116.4 million, six weeks; 7. "Devil's Due," the "found-footage" horror film, bombed, opening with $8.5 million; 8. "August: Osage County" (two Oscar nominations: actor female: Meryl Streep; supporting actor female: Julia Roberts), $7.6 million, $18.2 million, four weeks; 9. "The Wolf of Wall Street" (five Oscar nominations: picture, director: Martin Scorsese, screenplay: Terrence Winter, actor male: Leonard DiCaprio, supporting actor male: Jonah Hill), $7.5 million, $90.3 million, four weeks; 10. "Saving Mr. Banks" (One Oscar nomination: original score), $4.1 million, $75.4 million, six weeks

Unreel, Jan. 24:

"I, Frankenstein," PG-13: The Frankenstein myth is recreated for modern times. Aaron Eckhart stars as the title character in the science-fiction fantasy film based on a graphic novel by Kevin Grevioux about a war between two immortal clans. Bill Nighy, Miranda Otto and Virginie Le Brun co-star.

Read Paul Willistein's movie reviews at the Lehigh Valley Press web site, thelehighvalley-press.com; the Times-News web site, tnonline.com; and hear them on "Lehigh Valley Art Salon," 6 - 6:30 p.m. Mondays, WDIY 88.1 FM, and wdiy.org, where they're archived. Email Paul Willistein: pwillistein@ tnonline.com. You can follow Paul Willistein on Twitter and friend Paul Willistein on facebook.