Certainly one of the most entertaining films to come out of Hollywood in 2013, American Hustle lives up to its title – what the Mirror calls “a darkly humorous crime caper”. Its basic premise is the 1970s Abscam scandal, starring (in real life) Irving Rosenfeld, in the film played by Christian Bale. In real life, the F.B.I. actually called in another crook to help catch a bunch of public officials – crooks in high places – in the act.
The ‘scandal’ was not only scandalous but quite preposterous, and director David O. Russell makes very good use of that quality, aided and abetted to the max with performances from an amazing crew of well-cast actors and actresses. Bale as Rosenfeld is beyond convincing – he makes you believe he has a good heart as well as a greedy and crafty mindset, and this underlying streak of goodness or whatever it is adds another dimension to the whole hustle.
The story itself uses elements of that absurd episode in the history of white collar crime, when officials were being bribed right and left to facilitate the money-making schemes of casino operators and such.
The F.B.I. is represented by Bradley Cooper as agent Richie DiMaso, who’s organizing a sting operation to rope in those corrupt officials. When he manages to catch Irving and his partner Sydney in their act and coerces them into helping with his sting, the action takes on a life of its own.
Amy Adams plays Sidney Prosser, an ambitious, smart and almost-straight ex-stripper who appears to fall for Irving’s smarts and his fondness for Duke Ellington, which she shares. She is also the object of agent Richie’s affections/lust; he even curls his hair with hot rollers to get that ‘sexy Italian look’.
Overall the American Hustle is a masterpiece of light but intricate entertainment, a definite go-see for anyone who’s into sheer pleasure.