Tuesday, March 25, 2014

Review 254: "American Hustle"

Everyone Hustles to Survive
Man, that's an awful line...


      American Hustle is a 2013 Oscar contender set around a semi-true story and set in the 70s. Directed by David O. Russell (The Fighter), as well as written by him and Eric Warren Singer (The International). The film follows a pair of lovers/con artists, Irving (Christian Bale) and Sydney (Amy Adams), who are forced by FBI agent DiMaso (Bradley Cooper) to help use New Jersey mayor Polito (Jeremy Renner) in a plot that will lead to the arrest of congressmen and mob family members. The con gets a monkey wrench thrown in when Sydney falls fo DiMaso, DiMaso's boss (Louis C.K.) and Irving's wife Rosalyn (Jennifer Lawrence) gets involved in the sting.

Batman let himself go. Again.
The Fun Stuff

      American Hustle is, first things first, an awards movie. The film feels like it was made sole for the people involved to get their respective Oscars and go home happy. And much like Russell last film to sweep the Oscar nominations, Silver Linings Playbook, this movie isn't very good. Granted, it's not nearly as bad as Playbook, which I still maintain as one of the worst films of last year. But still, American Hustle suffers because it holds back all the stuff that would make a movie like this, you know, good. American Hustle is a sexy, comedic, bold and sleazy film that's cold, dull, safe and lame. It's like a teenager coming home with his friend after a great party, wanting to talk about the girls, drinking and craziness, but his Mom's in the room, so they sterilize the story. Russell is clearly trying to mimic the styles of Scorsese and even a little Tarantino, but in fear of alienating the Oscar voters, dumbs it down to pointlessness. When a film can have as many shots of Amy Adams in extremely low-cut dresses as this film does and feel this mechanical and unsexy is a feat in it's own right.


      And that's exactly what this film is: mechanical. Russell has literally assembled this movie. No heart, emotion or sense of fun went into this film. For a supposed comedy, I never laughed once and honestly I never found a place where I at least felt like I was supposed to. But a lack in comedy can be made up with some good drama. Nope, not here though. For all the issues involving characters love lives, no one here actually seems to like anyone. The chemistry between the cast is just awful, each scene meant to make us emotionally invested just landing with a loud thud. (Kinda like that other Russell movie...) And with the mostly-improvised dialogue here, the already complex ABSCAM story gets even more hard to follow. And with the film nearly reaching the two and a half hour mark, it's one hell of a slow ride. With a dose of silliness, or sleaziness or any sense of fun whatsoever, this could have worked. But, nope, OSCAR GLORY! Oh, wait...

The Hangover Part IV: Cause Why Not?
The Verdict

      American Hustle might have talent in it's cast and some Oscar nominations in it's favor, but ultimately, it's another shallow, ugly mess from director David O. Russell. A waste of a perfectly good setting with a sterilized film for Oscar voters, that features unlikable characters with no chemistry, a story that's barely explained, a sense of humor that's non-existent and emotional scenes that flop embarrassingly. American Hustle best con is lying to itself that it's any good. American Hustle gets 2 and a half stars out of 6.

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