American Hustle

Once again, we have a movie where the bar has been set high, very high. Not only does the film star Hollywood’s newly arrived A-list, the project is helmed by three-time Oscar-nominated director David O. Russell. It already has garnered seven Golden Globe nominations and is without doubt on the Academy’s short list. With that kind of pre-press, a movie really has to deliver…

Irving (Christian Bale) is a con man. He’s not a player or a mobster; he’s just a balding guy from the Bronx shaking down the locals. When he meets Sydney (Amy Adams) at a party, he is smitten. Posing as a British investor named Edith, Sydney expands Irving’s operation, an upsizing which does not escape notice at the FBI. Enter Richie DiMaso (Bradley Cooper), an ambitious fed with more enthusiasm than experience. Richie coerces Sydney and Irving into working for him to reel in bigger fish. As luck would have it, Richie’s sting quickly snowballs and rather than snagging Camden’s lowly mayor, Carmine Polito (Jeremy Renner), soon Richie is after everyone from mob bosses to U.S. senators. Meanwhile, Irving, his unpredictable wife Ros (Jennifer Lawrence), and Sydney are left dangling as the FBI uses them to lure bigger and bigger criminals.

The movie is great. It is interesting without being heavy, smart without being pretentious and entertaining without being solicitous. The acting—as you would expect, is spectacular—it’s so good you hardly notice it. The one glaring exception is comic Louis C.K. who is out of his depth as Richie’s sensible boss. It’s an 8.

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