'AMERICAN HUSTLE' (R) (4 STARS) (HIGHEST RATING)
Written by Eric Singer and David O'Russell
Directed by David O'Russell
Actors: Christian Bale, Amy Adams, Bradley Cooper, Jennifer Lawrence, Jeremy Renner, Louis C.K., Jack Huston, Alessandro Nivola, Michael Pena, Shea Whigham, Elizabeth Rohm, Said Taghmaoui.
Sometimes a movie comes along that has such energy, freshness, enthusiasm, joyful and thrilling filmmaking that gets you pumped up! "Pulp Fiction", "GoodFellas" and "Boogie Nights" are three of those type movies and three of my favorites, classics. Now you can add "American Hustle" to that glorious, perfect list! I was never bored, had a wide grin on my face the whole time, laughed my butt off and just sat back and watched the best acting I have seen from an ensemble cast in years! Add to my pleasure the fact that this story is set in the 70's, my favorite period of time in history. Yes, I said that, I love films from the 70's and I always say that if I was in a movie and was stuck in time I would pick the 70's to be stuck in, before technology robbed us.
"American Hustle" starts with the hilarious opening title, one that made everyone laugh out loud at the screening I went to, "Some of This Actually Happened". I knew after seeing that title that this would be one hilarious thrill ride! Actually in the late 70's the FBI recruited a con man and woman to work with them on a covert operation called "Abscam". This is really based on a true story and the story gets so nutty you know writers Eric Singer and David O'Russell had to embellish some of it but you never know about stuff that happened in the 70's. FBI agent Richie Dimaso, Bradley Cooper, recruited this couple, Irving Rosenfeld and Sydney Prosser, to help him catch corrupt politicians. Add to the mix the wife of Irving, Rosalyn, played wonderfully by the amazing Jennifer Lawrence.
Richie, to the frustration of his boss Stoddard Thorsen, played wonderfully by comedian Louis C.K., creates a fake Arab Sheik to catch some crooked congressman. The con couple are quite a pair and when the Mob, Irving's loopy wife and the crazy Dimaso come together in this "Abscam" debacle it's a glorious mess! That's all I will tell you because I want you to be on the edge of your seat following this fascinating story and movie. I had such a fun time during this movie, I couldn't remember the last time I had this much fun! David O'Russell has made a thrilling, flawlessly recreated, shot, costumed and spellbinding movie! He also includes the best use of 70's songs in a 70's set movie since "Boogie Nights" because he doesn't use songs that others have used ad nauseum in other movies set in the 70's.
David O'Russell has become my favorite writer and director right now because he obviously loves movies. Starting in 1999 with my favorite war movie "Three Kings", he has made thrilling, fresh, hugely entertaining movies and he gets amazing performances from his perfectly cast actors. Last year "Silver Linings Playbook" was my best movie of the year and it had Russell's unique stamp on it, it's like I never saw that kind of movie before. Now he might earn my pick as best movie of this year because I have seen a lot of 70's set movies and this is not like any other I have seen. The movie is a delicious, black comedy that gets more outrageous as it moves along but it never loses control and never goes over the top. It's just this side of blowing a gasket but Russell steers it to delightful perfection.
Russell also has perfected a smart, crazy, hilarious, fascinating screenplay with Eric Singer. He also hits a home run for the umpteenth time with casting a great ensemble of some of the best acting of this or any other year. It starts at the top with the ladies, Amy Adams and Jennifer Lawrence, and man are they incredible! Amy Adams is sexy, fierce and funny as Sydney and Adams plays this con woman with such control and beautiful grace. My favorite performance of the movie belongs to Jennifer Lawrence and yes folks she is the real deal. What a hilarious, crazy, energetic and scene stealing performance and she isn't stealing scenes from chumps here. Now following her amazing performance last year in "Silver Linings Playbook" she has created two performances two years in a row of pure perfection, better than any actress ever has and I actually smiled and cried with joy everytime she was on screen.
The men are equally great and like Lawrence, Christian Bale has maybe cemented himself as the best actor of his generation. The movie opens with a gut busting opening scene as Irving is trying to fix the ugliest, messiest comb overs in history. Bale acts this scene about as perfect as any actor has acted out a particular scene. His performance here is fascinating and detailed and his chemistry with Adams is flawless. Also if you thought Bradley Cooper gave the best performance of his career with "Silver Linings Playbook" last year think again. He bounces off the wall wonderfully here as an FBI agent that tries so hard on this "Abscam" operation that he actually might ruin the whole thing.
These are four of the best performances you will ever see and it is lead by the dynamic performance of Jennifer Lawrence. You also have a great cast of wonderful actors that also contribute great supporting work. It starts with my favorite comedian Louis C.K. who plays Richie's FBI boss. The scenes between him and Cooper made me laugh longer and harder than I have in any comedy this year. You have character actors giving some of their best work here and you also have rising stars in the making. Jack Huston and Shea Whigham (Boardwalk Empire), Elizabeth Rohm, Colleen Camp, Alessandro Nivola, Jeremy Renner, Micheal Pena and Said Taghmaoui are all excellent!
"American Hustle" is a glorious masterpiece that is flawless in every facet of it's filmmaking. It has an infectious charm, energy and craziness that most movies would dream of having. It made me laugh throughout the entire movie, it has one of the best performances you will ever see by an actress. It is a fascinating slice of history that I sure didn't know about. I had so much fun learning about and absorbing this story. David O'Russell is building a fascinating career here and he is constantly thrilling us with the freshness of his movies. He again gets wonderful performances by a beautiful cast of great actors giving it their best. Movies like this don't come along that much, most movies go through the same old lazy, formulaic motions. "American Hustle" is one of the best times I have ever had at a movie and it will definitely become a classic!