Sunday, 2 February 2014

Hair And Hustling.

Everyone loves a story that keeps you on your toes. Everyone loves a loveable anti-hero. Everyone loves a tale FBI agents and conmen. So will a film that has all of these aspects deliver? This is American Hustle.

Irving Rosenfeld (Christian Bale) is a hustler, a conman. He makes people pay him $5000 in investments which they will never see again. When he meets Sydney Prosser (Amy Adams), they start a booming partnership with her alter ego, Lady Edith, drawing in the marks. That is, until FBI agent Richard DiMaso (Bradley Cooper) gets in the way of the operation and, rather than simply bust the hustlers, he offers them a deal. Help him drag down the big dogs and the corrupt political parties particularly Mayor Carmine Polito (Jeremy Renner). Irving is left with the choice between jail or balancing Sydney, DiMaso, and his wife Rosalyn (Jennifer Lawrence) as he attempts to bring down those after his own heart.

Irving has a strong sense of smell.
It is pretty handy.

It is amazing that the man behind Irving's hair, glasses, and belly is the same man that was Dicky in The Fighter, Trevor in The Machinist, and Batman. Bale has been known to starve himself for the above roles, but here we see a whole new side to him. Fat, furious, and forced into a job he does not want to do, Bale's Irving is somehow made vulnerable and accessible to the viewer, unlike the egotistical DiMaso, the lying Prosser, or the corrupt politicians. Really, despite being a crook that scams innocent people, Irving is a likeable guy but mostly through the lack of likeability for the rest of the ensemble - except Louis C.K.'s brilliantly funny Stoddard Thorsen. Adams forces you to constantly question Prosser and her motives, Cooper is enough of a jerk to Thorsen that you cannot help but be annoyed by his arrogance, Lawrence's Rosalyn is so irresponsible that sympathy for her becomes nigh impossible. Sure, Irving is a lying bastard, but he is smart, responsible, and level-headed. The other redeemable character is in terms of likeability is Renner's Polito, but he is a corrupt politician and we all want to see them crash and burn to some extent.

That's it. That's the film.

Everything about the the film screams big and glamorous. From the loud, jazzy soundtrack, to Irving's hair-do. The latter, too, leads into an example of the brilliant writing and directing team that is Eric Warren Singer and David O. Russell. The opening of the film is Irving setting up his elaborate hair with heaps of care and attention, only for DiMaso to come in and ruin it. Within minutes, Russell and Singer have shown us a strong dynamic between the leading characters, an extremely difficult achievement. However, there is a lack of weight to the story. Viewers familiar with the British show 'Hustle' will understand how important it is to balance the set up and release to create a decent pay off around the actual hustle. American Hustle feels a bit more like someone accidentally revealed the punchline to their joke but thought no one noticed so carried on telling it. The simple fact of the matter is there is no surprise to these tricksters. It leaves the audience going '...and? There has to be more to it, surely?' But alas, there is not.

A terrific piece of ensemble work. All the performers are at their best, particularly Bale. A barrel of fun, occasionally hilarious, and a decent ride, it just lacks the pay off that one would expect through out the film. But this only dampens it; it fails to destroy it.

Best Bit? There is a wonderful scene with a cameo from Robert De Niro that is tense throughout. THAT scene gets the pay off it needs.

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