American Hustle

PLOT (spoiler alert!!!):

In 1978, con artists Irving Rosenfeld and Sydney Prosser have started a relationship and are working together. Sydney has improved Rosenfeld’s scams, posing as English aristocrat “Lady Edith Greensly”. While Irving loves Sydney, he is hesitant to leave his wife Rosalyn out of fear of losing contact with her son Danny.

FBI agent Richard “Richie” DiMaso catches Irving and Sydney in a loan scam, but offers to release them if Irving can line up four additional arrests. Sydney opposes the agreement. Richie believes Sydney is English but has proof that her claim of aristocracy is fraudulent. Sydney tells Irving she will manipulate Richie, distancing herself from Irving.

Irving has a friend pretending to be a wealthy Arab sheikh looking for potential investments in America. An associate of Irving’s suggests the sheikh do business with Mayor Carmine Polito of Camden, New Jersey, who is campaigning to revitalize gambling in Atlantic City but has struggled in fundraising. Richie devises a plan to make Carmine the target of a sting operation, despite the objections of Irving and of Richie’s boss, Stoddard Thorsen. Sydney helps Richie manipulate an FBI secretary into making an unauthorized wire transfer of $2,000,000. When Stoddard’s boss, Anthony Amado, hears of the operation, he praises Richie’s initiative, pressuring Stoddard to continue.

Richie’s overeagerness to catch Carmine causes the mayor to leave their meeting. Irving convinces Carmine the sheikh is legitimate, expressing his dislike toward Richie, and the two become friends. Richie arranges for Carmine to meet the sheikh at an airfield, and without consulting the others, has Mexican-American FBI agent Paco Hernandez play the sheikh.

Carmine brings the sheikh to a casino party, explaining mobsters are there and it is a necessary part of doing business. Irving is surprised to hear that Mafia overlord Victor Tellegio, second-in-command to Meyer Lansky, is present, and that he wants to meet the sheikh. Tellegio explains that the business needs the sheikh to become an American citizen and that Carmine will need to expedite the process. Tellegio also requires a $10,000,000 wire transfer to prove the sheikh’s legitimacy. Richie agrees, eager to bring down Tellegio, while Irving realizes the operation is out of control.

Richie confesses his attraction to Sydney but becomes confused and aggressive when she drops her English accent and admits to being American. Irving arrives to protect Sydney and tries to stop their deal with Richie, but Richie says if they back out, Tellegio will learn of the scam and murder them both, as well as Rosalyn and Danny.

Rosalyn starts an affair with Pete Musane, a mobster she met at the party. She mentions her belief that Irving is working with the Internal Revenue Service, causing Pete to threaten Irving, who promises to prove the sheikh’s investment is real. Irving later confronts Rosalyn, who admits she told Pete because she feels unloved. She agrees to keep quiet but wants a divorce.

With Carmine’s help, Richie and Irving videotape members of Congress receiving bribes. Richie goes over Stoddard, convincing Amado that $10,000,000 is needed to get Tellegio, but only gets $2,000,000. A meeting is arranged at the offices of Tellegio’s lawyer, Alfonse Simone, but Tellegio does not appear. The operation continues, and Richie records Simone’s admission of criminal activities.

Irving visits Carmine’s house and admits to the scam but tells Carmine he has a plan to help him. Carmine angrily throws Irving out, their friendship ended. Later, the money is missing, but an anonymous source offers to return it in exchange for Irving and Sydney’s immunity and a reduced sentence for Carmine. Amado wants to make the deal, but Richie objects. Irving suggests Richie either has the money or is incompetent for losing it. In fact, they never met with Tellegio’s lawyer. Instead, Irving had a friend pose as Simone to con Richie, giving Irving leverage and keeping them safe from the mob. Amado accepts the deal and removes Richie from the case, dropping him back into obscurity.

Irving and Sydney open an art gallery and move in together, while Rosalyn lives with Pete and shares custody of Danny with Irving. Tellegio accepts that Irving and Sydney deflected attention from him and leaves them to get on with their lives

REVIEW:

Upon my first viewing of the trailer for American Hustle, I didn’t know what to think about it, other than Amy Adams and Jennifer Lawrence were hot and Christian Bale, Bradley Cooper and Jeremy Renner looked stupidly hilarious. Now that I’ve watched it, I still am not sure what to think of it, but I think I at least have an idea.

What is this about?

This fictionalization of the “Abscam” scandal of the early 1980s follows con man Irving Rosenfeld and his lover, Sydney Prosser, as they help an eccentric FBI agent expose corruption among several members of Congress in New Jersey and Pennsylvania.

What did I like?

Transformation. Normally, I just want to punch Christian Bale in the face. I still do after watching this, but I have to give it up to him and the rest of the cast for the job they did transforming themselves for these roles. Take for instance Bradley Cooper. When are you ever going to see him with a full beard and tiny curls? Amy Adams, who has such a sweet look about her, playing a chick that is just short of being a prostitute. I could keep listing, but I’ll stop there. Just know that the costume and make-up department did a bang up job with these actors.

Balance. Being able to strike a nice balance between drama and comedy is something that doesn’t come easy, as can be seen in the endless list of films that try to do so. The filmmakers manage to emphasize the drama while throwing in some comedic moments here and there so as to break up the seriousness that this film could very well have foisted upon us.

Acting. The cast gives great performances which led to some award nomination and wins. I don’t want to single out any specific cast member, because they are all great. For a film to feature such overall solid performances is something to be noted, especially when all of them are outstanding, as can be said about this film.

What didn’t I like?

Say what? This is one of those films that you really have to be paying attention to know what I going on, and even then, you still may end up getting lost. At least that’s how it was for me. Just when I was starting to understand this part of the plot, the film would switch to another plot point, I almost totally gave up on this film, as a result.

De Niro. Robert De Niro is still considered by many to be one of the finest actors of his generation, but it seems like all he does now is appear in films for a paycheck. Someone of his caliber and talent should be doing much more, if you ask me. I think the last thing he did where he actually put in some effort was Silver Linings Playbook. His role in this film isn’t much more than a cameo but, once again, we find De Niro playing an Italian gangster. Geez! Can we say typecasting?!?

Length. For the type of film this is, the runtime isn’t totally horrible, but personally I think it went on a bit long. Could they have cut out at least 10-15 minutes (if not more)? I think so, but some would say that could possibly hurt the film. Some of the not so important aspects being cut would have made this film that much more accessible. Just because this is meant to be an award-winning film, doesn’t mean it has to be super long and sap all the interest the audience had in this film.

Final verdict on American Hustle? It is clearly meant to entertain as well as appeal to the stuffiest of critics. I really can’t think of much to say, good or bad to say about this film. It has something that will appeal or turn off audiences. Do I recommend it? Yes, it is a solid picture that earned its nominations this award season, but not good enough to win any of the big ones. Still, at some point, give this a shot!

4 out of 5 stars

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One Response to “American Hustle”

  1. […] (or should I say bouncing) around in a wife beater, but if you want to do that, just watch her in American Hustle or Silver Linings Playbook, where you get plenty of eye candy from her. I really don’t know […]

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