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‘American Hustle’ one of 2013’s best

Article Published: Jan. 10, 2014 | Modified: Jan. 10, 2014
‘American Hustle’ one of 2013’s best

From left, Amy Adams, Bradley Cooper, Jeremy Renner, Christian Bale and Jennifer Lawrence
star in ‘American Hustle.’

Watching a great director cut loose makes for a fun time at the movies.

When that director is David O. Russell, expect an even bigger time.

Spectacularly acted, inventively filmed and impeccably written, “American Hustle” is easily one of the best movies of 2013.

Like an infectiously catchy tune — and “Hustle” features plenty — it’s Russell’s (“Silver Linings Playbook”) pervasive giddiness that captures his audience.

Is it a full-fledged comedy? Not quite. Is it a gripping drama? Not necessarily. “American Hustle” masterfully combines winning elements of American cinema for a film that qualifies as pure entertainment.

Once again, Christian Bale (“The Fighter”) owns his role, this time as brilliant (but small-time) con artist Irving Rosenfeld, who, with the help of his lover and partner in crime, Sydney Prosser (Amy Adams, “The Muppets”), hustles for an easy living in 1970s New Jersey.

Through fake investments and forged artwork, the duo makes a successful go of it, although most nights find Irving returning home to his wife, Rosalyn (Jennifer Lawrence, “The Hunger Games”), and her son, who he’s adopted as his own.

Sydney has grown to accept this, although matters grow considerably more complicated when she’s busted by an ambitious FBI agent, Richie DiMaso (Bradley Cooper, “The Place Beyond the Pines”), who’s also putting the screws to Irving.

Promising a clean slate if they cooperate, DiMaso coerces Irving and Sydney into aiding his efforts to expose political corruption in New Jersey. Their target, however, is the altruistic mayor of Atlantic City, Carmine Polito (Jeremy Renner, “The Town”), a true friend of the people, whose few shady dealings have only been for the benefit of his community.

As Irving and Carmine become fast friends, the former feels conflicted about his goal, but even more so about DiMaso’s bullheaded and sloppy attempts to catch even bigger fish — including mobster Victor Tellegio (Robert De Niro, “Goodfellas,” in a brilliant, uncredited cameo).

It’s their biggest hustle yet, but it’ll come at a cost.

Based loosely on the FBI’s ABSCAM campaign, in which the bureau created a fictitious Middle Eastern sheik to wheel and deal with public officials suspected of corruption, “American Hustle” opens with the disclaimer that “Some of this actually happened.”

These five words set the tone for the riotously entertaining story to follow, and Russell gleefully milks them for all they’re worth. Dazzling viewers with style and flashiness indicative of the period, Russell invites us to sit back and enjoy the ride.

And we’re in good company. The film’s cast — one of the most effective and talented ensembles in recent history — is obviously having fun, sinking its collective teeth into a group of oddball characters that, despite their many personal flaws, somehow manage to become endearing.

All are hustling for something or another, be it success, respect, love or truth, but Russell makes it effectively clear — and not just through the film’s tagline — that everyone hustles to survive.
Fortunately, surviving has never been so much fun.

“American Hustle,” rated R for pervasive language, some sexual content and brief violence, is playing at Regal Cinema 7 in Boone. For show times, see page 14, or visit

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