American Hustle

Irving Rosenfeld and Sydney Prosser (Christian Bale and Amy Adams) are two damaged souls who, together, make one whole person.  They are con artists running a fairly successful racket promising desperate people who can’t get money through the bank loans that cost $5000 in upfront fees.  No loans are ever given and the pair is happy working together, raking in money and living a comfortable life.  That changes when one of their marks turns out to be FBI agent Richie DiMaso (Bradley Cooper) and throws Sydney, who he knows as a British woman named Edith Greensly, in a holding cell for three days.  This applies pressure on Irving who is in love with Sydney despite being married to Rosalyn (Jennifer Lawrence) and the adoptive father to her young son.  DiMaso says he can make the charges against the pair go away but they have to help him set up stings on four other con artists.  Irving reluctantly agrees despite Sydney’s reservations.  As the first sting is being set up involving an Arab sheikh looking to invest in America, one of Irving’s marks suggests involving the mayor of Camden, New Jersey, Carmine Polito (Jeremy Renner), who is looking for investors to rebuild and revitalize Atlantic City which has just gotten legalized gambling.  DiMaso decides to expand the investigation and try to ensnare Polito.  This leads to an even bigger operation involving gangsters and members of Congress in a setup that’s spinning more and more out of control as DiMaso sees bigger and bigger targets to arrest hence benefiting his career.  Irving and Sydney are getting more and more nervous about how dangerous some of these people are and the unpredictable Rosalyn may be the wild card that causes the entire plot to unravel.
 
“American Hustle” is a fun movie to watch.  It borrows a bit of history with which I am somewhat familiar, the Abscam controversy of the 1970’s and 1980’s, and wraps it in a whole extra layer of storytelling that offers a glimpse into the lives of people who do whatever it takes to survive.  No one in the film is completely innocent or completely guilty and almost every character in the movie has a motive within a motive for their actions.  The scam plays out like an intricate dance that also requires a little improvisation in the middle and all the players are up to the challenge.  It’s a movie that requires your attention and you should give it.
 
While everyone in the film is fantastic, the one performance that I wished there was more of was Jennifer Lawrence as Rosalyn.  Every time she’s on screen you can’t help but watch her and wonder what she’s going to do next.  Rosalyn is completely unpredictable and her moods turn on a dime.  She may like you one minute and trying to rip your face off the next.  Her wild swings might be annoying in the hands of a less talented actress but Lawrence makes her so interesting and fun you look forward to her complicating nearly any situation she’s in.
 
Based on how intricate the story is, it could have collapsed under its own weight but director David O. Russell never dwells on any aspect too long so he also never cuts off any story point too quickly.  Everything plays out in a nice, even understandable way that may still catch you off guard as the movie plays out.  The story builds and builds as more layers of the FBI sting get added so what begins as a fairly typical scam slowly evolves into a massive conspiracy that has numerous moving parts, some of which are unaware of each other.  There are cons on top of cons and everyone is keeping an eye on each other.  It is an intricately plotted film that delivers a satisfying, if perhaps too tidy, ending.
 
“American Hustle” is rated R for pervasive language, some sexual content and brief violence.  There are a few mildly violent sections that aren’t very graphic or bloody with the exception of seeing a character being beaten with a phone.  The sexual content is more suggestive than graphic.  Nudity is very limited.  Foul language is common throughout the film.
 
“American Hustle” is nominated for 10 Academy Awards including Best Picture, Best Director and Best Original Screenplay.  Several of the actors are up for statues as well.  It is a very entertaining movie that features unique individuals in exceptional circumstances.  It also features some of the most elaborate hairstyles I’ve seen in a very long time and a cameo by one of the greatest actors of the last 50 years that came as a complete surprise.  While some will find the film too “talky,” it simply requires your attention to be truly entertaining.  If you like a film with more to it than car chases and explosions, “American Hustle” is for you.
 
“American Hustle” gets five guitars out of five.
 
Toys, World War II and supernatural creatures are the focus of this week’s films.  Vote for the next movie I see and review.
 
The LEGO Movie—Emmet (Chris Pratt), an ordinary LEGO figurine who always follows the rules, is mistakenly identified as the Special -- an extraordinary being and the key to saving the world. He finds himself drafted into a fellowship of strangers who are on a mission to stop an evil tyrant's (Will Ferrell) plans to conquer the world.
 
The Monuments Men—Based on the true story of the greatest treasure hunt in history, The Monuments Men is an action drama focusing on an unlikely World War II platoon, tasked by FDR with going into Germany to rescue artistic masterpieces from Nazi thieves and returning them to their rightful owners.
 
Vampire Academy—Rose Hathaway (Zoey Deutch) and Lissa Dragomir (Lucy Fry) are two 17-year-old girls who attend a hidden boarding school for Moroi (mortal, peaceful Vampires) and Dhampirs (half-vampire/half-human guardians). Rose, a rebellious Guardian-in-training and her best friend, Lissa - a royal vampire Princess - have been on the run when they are captured and returned to St.Vladamirs Academy, the very place where they believe their lives may be in most jeopardy.
 
Stan’s Choice—Stan sees and reviews any film of this choice currently playing in theatres.
 
Release dates are subject to change and not all films may be shown in Knoxville, TN.
 
Send questions and/or comments to stanthemovieman@att.net.  Follow Stan on Twitter @moviemanstan.