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So as you know, I stopped writing lengthy reviews on this site this year, keeping the blog as more of a film diary of sorts.  Lo and behold,...

Sunday, January 12, 2014

Movie Review - American Hustle

American Hustle (2013)
Starring Christian Bale, Amy Adams, Bradley Cooper, Jennifer Lawrence, Jeremy Renner, Louis C.K., Jack Huston, and Michael Peña
Directed by David O. Russell

Quite simply, American Hustle is the most overrated movie I've seen as of yet that's gained prevalence during this awards season.  (Captain Phillips is a close second.)  For a movie that is inherently about backstabbing and thievery, there wasn't a moment of tension or excitement and the characters failed to make any impact on me whatsoever.

David O. Russell who directed and co-wrote the picture was also behind the lens and put the pen to paper for last year's Silver Linings Playbook, another film I found to be incredibly overrated and undeserving of the heaps of praise thrown its way.  There's something about Russell's writing style that just doesn't grab me in the slightest (and would also explain why I enjoyed his previous film The Fighter seeing as how he didn't write it).  Silver Linings Playbook felt like two disparate halves that failed to come together.  Similarly, American Hustle is a mishmash of different genres, none of which resonate.  When the comedy is culled from jokes about people's perms or comb-overs or the sassiness of a "New Yawk" broad, it makes me wonder if Russell has any original ideas.

But perhaps Russell wasn't going for original.  Much has been said about American Hustle being Russell's ode to the 1970s films by Scorsese and while that very well be true, that doesn't make this worthwhile.  While the film itself is fictional, it has its basis in true events.  Back in the 1970s, Atlantic City was looking to rebuild its name as the gaming capital of the world.  In order to do so, Camden mayor Carmine Polito (Jeremy Renner) tries to bribe other politicians to help the city flourish.  You'd think that'd be the basis of the film considering it's a story that could have some depth to it.  You'd be wrong.

Instead, Russell (and co-writer Eric Singer) place the emphasis on Irving Rosenfeld (Christian Bale), a slimy owner of a collection of dry cleaning establishments who has a side business in offering fake loans to people.  At a swinging 1970s shindig, Irving meets Sydney (Amy Adams), a gal from New Mexico who moved to New York looking for a different lifestyle.  She immediately falls for Irving and shows him that she's quite game to help him with his "loan" business, willing to go so far as to create a new identity for herself -- Lady Edith Greensley whose English accent will instinctively make her seem more important to Irving's clients.  One of these clients just happens to be Richie DeMaso (Bradley Cooper), an undercover FBI agent, who manages to catch Irving and Sydney in the act of fraud.  After he arrests the couple, Richie agrees to free them only if they'll assist him in helping him track down even bigger folks committing fraudulent acts.

Throw in some love triangles, a brassy wife for Irving (played way too over-the-top by Jennifer Lawrence), and Robert DeNiro as a mafia kingpin, and American Hustle is just a mess in terms of story.  Much like Silver Linings Playbook, this film just doesn't know what it wants to be.  [I criticize Ms. Lawrence there, but her character's brashness was at least a breath of fresh air in this story, and her scenes, despite not having much to do in terms of advancing the film, were some of the film's best.  However, Lawrence is the one person that I felt you could "see" acting whereas the others embodied their characters more or less.]

Granted, I'll give Russell credit that he does manage to get some nice performances from his group of actors, but overall, the film is a mess.  The costumes were groovy, though!

The RyMickey Rating:  D+


  1. I don't like it nearly as much as most people but a D+ is kinda overkill.
    I think it's better if you see it as a character study instead of trying to have a real plot. I mean the opening line is "Some of this actually happened" meaning the guy isn't too concerned with the story.
    Like it was shot relatively well, it was very well acted, it had a good soundtrack. It wasn't very funny, the climax felt unearned and Jennifer Lawrence was in a completely different movie. Speaking of which, she just won best supporting actress at the Golden Globes. Lawl. When there are three people she was against that were so much better. (Sally Hawkins, Betsy from 12 Years a Slave and June Squibb)

  2. Was going back and forth between a C- and D+ and ended with the latter after looking at this year's rubric when it came to other films. I may change to a C- in time, but I didn't like this one at all. It felt like a mess of scenes that just didn't make a cohesive piece of work to me. I mean, let's just film Jennifer Lawrence dancing to "Live and Let Die" for shits and giggles. Don't get me wrong, I LOVE "Live and Let Die" -- one of my favorite songs -- but why was that in the movie?

    As I said about Jennifer Lawrence, I don't think she was very good here, but she was the most enjoyable actor in the movie to me simply because she was so out of place in the midst of it all.

    And let's be honest...the Globes are a bunch of star whores...I hope the Academy rights this and doesn't get caught up in the Jennifer Lawrence-American Hustle love. I'd sooner give her an award for Catching Fire (review forthcoming).

  3. Just that I watched Legend of Hercules yesterday and I would give that a D, it literally destroyed my will to watch another movie that day.
    American Hustle actually made me want to watch the Wolf of Wall Street to see a Scorsese movie done right. ;)

  4. There's part of me that wants to feel pity for you, but since you voluntarily subjected yourself to that, I cannot.