American Hustle

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My Take: 4 STARS

David O. Russell is on movie-making steroids. There. I said it. I mean: where on earth did this guy come from? Is there any other explanation other than he’s juicing? Hmmmm . . .

Well, where ever these special abilities came from, I’m not complaining. And what makes O. Russell great – aside from the stories from the set – are the genre of movies he’s tackling. He’s diverse and makes it work. In 2010, he came out with The Fighter, which is a great sports movie. Then, in 2011, he came out with Silver Linings Playbook, a quirky romantic comedy. And now, in the year 2013, he had his hands full with American Hustle, a movie as diverse as America itself. It has a little of everything, love and romance, comedy, toupees, drama, great period sets, vintage hairstyles and outfits, and Jennifer Lawrence banging her head to Queen while cleaning the house. Just everything a growing boy needs.

American Hustle brought together the all-star team from his previous two movies. Christian Bale and Amy Adams from The Fighter and Bradley Cooper and Jennifer Lawrence from Silver Linings Playbook. Add in Jeremy Renner, Louis C.K., and a cameo by Robert De Niro and Hustle has an unforgettable cast with unforgettable performances. The cake – literally and figuratively – goes to Christian Bale, who gained fifty pounds to play Irving Rosenfeld, con-man extraordinaire. Bale plays Rosenfeld with such restraint, a hefty man with heart problems who holds everything inside. You really cannot take you eyes off of him, partly due to his weight, but mostly due to his steely resolve and his command of the screen. He might not get the credit he deserves for this movie, but he acts the shit out of his role.

Then there’s Jennifer Lawrence. Oh my, what can I say about you other than: you go girl! I see another Oscar nom in your future. Sexy, scintillating, and extravagant. J-Law does it all. Am I surprised? Nope. Did I want more? Of course. And it’s funny, she wasn’t supposed to have the time to be in the film, but Mr. O. Russell begged her and she caved. Score one for the director. I mean, for the guy that gave you your first Oscar, I guess you can compromise somewhere.

And I won’t get into the other guys and girls, but just be assured that they are all great. Honorable mention to Louis C.K. Can you believe that he is in a David O.Russell film? One that will most likely be nominated for Best Picture? Yeah, he probably can’t either, so don’t feel bad. Good for him. Reminds me a lot of the Dice Clay situation and how he was casted into a Woody Allen movie. Gotta love it!

But where American Hustle scores best is simply with its feel. O. Russell has no discernible style, but he sure knows how to direct a movie and he nails it with this one. From the time period to the language, American Hustle has it all. Watching it, I didn’t want it to end. Not because it wasn’t something I’ve never seen before (Gravity, you still on my mind), but because it was just so much fun. I know, I know, that’s sort of a cop out, but dag-nabit, I can’t help it.

David O. Russell is like a jack-of-all-trades director, especially with Hustle. His films have both style and substance, similar to director giants Quentin Tarantino and Martin Scorsese. Want great period crime drama like Scorsese? Got it. Want vibrant dialogue like Tarantino? Got it. Want a great soundtrack like the both of ’em? Got it! And I’m not saying he is stealing or borrowing, O. Russell movies are all his own and boy is he knocking them out of the park. Steroids or not, this man can direct. I can’t wait to see what he tackles in his next film. Maybe a huge action movie with Arnold Schwarzennegger? A kid can dream, a kid can dream.

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