American Hustle (2013) Review

director: David O. Russell

writers: David O. Russell & Eric Warren Singer

starring: Bradley Cooper, Christian Bale, Amy Adams, Jennifer Lawrence and Jeremy Renner

genre: Crime | Drama

released: December 12, 2013 (Australia). December 20, 2013 (U.S.), January 9, 2014 (Greece), February 13, 2014 (Germany)

David O. Russel's last three projects showed a new side to his filmmaking. Contrary to when he first started out where he was a more edgy director, having a slight twist to his narratives and giving a unique complexity to his characters. He has now changed paths towards a more streamlined approach of storytelling and character paths. Remaining a filmmaker that knows that without character there can be no plot, that it's crucial to get the best out of your actors and then knowing how to elevate specific elements of one's film. Which is one of the best ways to package a film and then send out to audiences to fall in love with.


A New York con man Irving Rosenfeld (Christian Bale) meets his match in an upcoming con artist Sydney Prosser (Amy Adams). Together they will be the best team on the job and in their personal lives. Events though will pull their true love back, with Irving being married to a psycho depressed woman Rosalyn (Jennifer Lawrence) and him and Syndey being entrapped in an FBI sting operation. The only way for the two of them to get themselves out of this tricky situation and to move on with their lives. Is to work together with ambitious FBI agent Richie DiMaso (Bradley Cooper) and bring down some dirty politicians to further his career. In one of the most elaborate and costly FBI sting operations.


The change in Russel's way of approaching a project, could have come from the backlash he got, from the Lily Tomlin fight on the set of the whimsical film "I Heart Huckabbes". In a way the change brought some great films, with straight forward stories and easy to watch/general audience oriented films. Films that still didn't forget to be character first, then plot. This is not to say that any of his previous work were bad, as they were actually highly intelligent and beautiful in their execution. However Russell now is a conventional Hollywood director. Taking great scripts, putting A-list actors to work and implementing enough of a twist and emotion in his properties to gravitate audiences towards him.

Many might dislike this approach, something which Ben Affleck is also noted for doing. However there is a time and a place for everything in cinema and not all things can be of the same nature. The end result of any film production should almost always be to have great talent be involved, allowing creativity to flourish and to know the art of making an audience fall in love with the characters and the conclusion to their stories. If any film happens to be also experimental, with a phenomenal technical director and also incorporating multi layered meanings, storylines and interacting characters. Then the more the merrier, but that is a rarity in the grand scheme of cinema.

After "the Fighter" many knew pretty much whom Russell will cast for his films and who could blame him. As when you get a good group together and develop a superb working relationship, then there is no need to go searching further. Bale, Lawrence, Adams, Cooper and Renner are all phenomenal actors. Jumping from part to part, decade to decade, accent to accent and mood to mood without missing a beat. They sell movies like hot cakes and this film is even more proof to their acting talent.

Till now I haven't spoken much about the plot, because the acting is what makes this film worthwhile and the way its characters interact with each other. It's because they are all characteristically different to each other, with specific goals and behaviors. All that was needed was to put them in a specific situation and let them thrive in it. Not everything that we see on screen is word for word from the script, I presume (knowing that improv was a big part of the film). But that's why it takes a good director to put it all together and let the magic happen.


One of last year's biggest Oscar contenders has a bit of everything. It has its moments of melodramatic family drama and lovers quarrel, then it becomes a little bit of a con artist film, also an ambitious guilt trip of one's career, with some social commentary of how politics work added to the mix and then most importantly of all. The incredibly devised comedic beats that are layered out throughout the film and that are unquestionably hilarious. All around "American Hustle" is a film, that is difficult not to enjoy.

Personal Rating:

review by Paul Katsaros

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