I had been following David O. Russells career ever since his first feature Spank the Monkey which is literally as controversial and cringe worthy as it sounds, however since then his career has certainly been moving from strength to strength, also allowing him to grow as a director along the way; you just have to look at his recent portfolio as an example, with three nominated best picture films in the last four years; The Fighter, Silver Linings Playbook and his latest film American Hustle rounding out the three. Although none of the films went on to earn the coveted statue, David O.Russle has proven to being a director who can draw out big and note worthy performance that often take well established stars to new levels; Christian Bales gritty and raw performance in The Fighter as a down and out fight desperately trying to cling on to the glory days, Amy Adam’s hear wrenching portrayal of Mark Wahlberg girlfriend who has to stand ideally by and watch her loved one get manipulated by his loved ones in the same film and then you have Jennifer Lawrence and Bradley Copper in Silver linings Playbook who were in the film able to turn the burnt ashes that were their lives into a beautiful phoenix. Each performance had a different quality, but what they all had in common was that they were powerful and memorable and inherently Russell, thus it should come as no surprise to know that they were all Oscar nominated, with Bale and Lawrence going home with the top acting prizes.
So not even a year went by when David had the eureka worthy idea of bringing together the A list acting arsenal that he previously worked with in The Fighter and In Playbook, to create an herculean cast list, are you ready for this? Because it is going to blow your mind! First we have Amy Adams – amazing right? But wait there is more! I’ll raise you every mum’s crush Bradley Copper, but hold on pick up your jaws from the ground because I have the fabulous Jennifer Lawrence’s to get the guys swooning. But I’m not done yet! Just when you had all the air sucked out of your lungs, I have one last inclusion to this fantastic four to really wet your cinefile appetite, because I have … drum roll please…The Dark Knight himself, Mr. Christian Bale to round out the team, Electrifying right?
Let me set the scene for you, the date is April 28th, 1978 and we find ourselves in Plaza hotel, New work looking into mirror reflection of a fat, bolding middle aged man, trying desperately to construct the perfect comb over. No your eyes aren’t deceiving you, that’s really Christian Bale, but there is no prosthetics anywhere to be seen, although the hairs isn’t all him. The phenomenal acting chameleon plays con man Irving Rosenfield who is a natural born hustler, who as a child would purposely hurls stones at local shop windows, but don’t worry his farther owns a window repair business, how lucky right?! However now Irving has himself in the big leagues as he makes his way to a 75,000 dollar hand off to corrupt politician Carmine Polito (Jeremy Renner), except things go wrong when Richie Dimaso (Bradley Copper) messes up the dodgy operation, but before we see how things turn out we are sent back to when everything all started, at the time when Irving first laid eyes on the sweet Sydney Prosser, however fortunately it is not to long before they are bonded by a shared appreciation of singer Duke Ellington and his song Jeep blues. Then with Sydney pretending to be Lady Edith Greensly with royal banking connections in London for the purposes of cons, thus initiating their whirl wind con artist love affair. Things start of great, he’s the Muhammad Ali of lying and cheating and she is “So careful and precise about everything”, however things go from bad to worse when you throw Irving’s wife Rosalyn (Jennifer Lawrence), yes I said wife! Eastenders moments or what! And then you add being caught by the FBI and forced to help them catch corrupt politicians, dodgy senators and greedy state officials.
Yet it seems American Hustle despite being blessed with such an abundance of talent, from the first act it seems it is in need of all this acting muscle just to be able to steer itself away from the iceberg it threatens to have itself crash into once or twice in the film. A political thriller with a sense of humour is certainly something difficult to resist in theory, however in practise it’s a strange and disjointed combination that at times it tries too hard to do at the same time, often with distresses affects. So instead of being a master at one it decides to be a jack of all trades and that why unfortunately it becomes some weird hybrid; with lack of real tension at times, whilst other times it fails to deliver the very punch line it has been promising all film.
But it’s not all doom and gloom and leaving my cynical deposition at the door; American Hustle isn’t by any stretch of the imagination the best film of 2013, or even the best film of David’s career, but it does still possess a multitude of endearing qualities. One of which is the Hilarious subplot between the funniest comedian in the world in Louis CK as FBI supervisor Stoddard Thorsen and Copper, in which the supervisor constantly tries to tell his child hood ice fishing story that promises a useful moral to Copper, however being the arrogant motor mouth he is, he never lets Louis finish instead keeps prematurely drawing his own conclusion from the story before Louis even has a chance to reveal it, sometimes he thinks it is about protection other times about being hasty and brash. Another positive were Michael Wilkinson’s costume design and Judy Becker’s production values that made it seem like you actually stepped into a time warp that brought you into the late 70’s and the rich blues melodies and sound tracks put together by Danny Elfman gave the films a rich undertone, whilst giving blues rich films of Spike Lee and Woody Allen a great run for their money.
PS. We need more Jennifer Lawrence! Too be fair ever film would be made better with Jennifer Lawrence; Casablanca, Harry Potter or maybe even Star Wars, she can literally make anything better!