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American Hustle: Don’t Put Metal In The Science Oven!

December 21, 2013

This film is slick.

You’re pulled in the moment it begins with period-appropriate studio logos accompanied by perfect music. It starts by throwing us directly into the middle of the story, as Irving Rosenfeld (Bale) and Edith Greensly (Adams) are being forced to assist FBI Agent Richie DiMaso (Cooper) in entrapping Mayor Polito of Camden, New Jersey in a bribery scheme. The dynamic between the three leads is extremely tense, almost uncomfortably so, and charged with suspicion and downright hatred at points. It’s amazing and it makes this film even better.

American Hustle is based on the FBI’s ABSCAM operation of the late 70s, which was designed explicitly to arrest US congressman and other politicians for accepting bribes. From that historical launching point Russel and Singer craft a web of characters and events that draw you into a world of blurred morality and broken relationships. All of the characters in the film are people who are trapped in the lives they’ve built for themselves, and desperately looking for any way out of it.

The con that they begin to run on the Mayor of Camden, which inevitably connects to larger power players, quickly becomes their escape from reality. As the case builds, the characters become unstable, their relationships begin to fracture under the stress, and their escape becomes harder and harder for them to see. There are a lot of powerful emotions running behind everything that happens, which makes every scene captivating. On top of this, the actual plot is filled with interesting twists, and misdirection on the part of multiple characters, which forces you to pay attention.

Every single supporting character is pitch perfect, and the cast is made up of talented people giving great performances. The interactions between DiMaso and his ho-hum boss Stoddard Thorsen (Louis CK) had me laughing my head off. Though, of course, America’s favorite awkward daughter Jennifer Lawrence steals almost every scene she’s in as Rosenfeld’s bitter and quite clearly insane wife. The cast is simply amazing, and some of the lines in this script will stick with you after you leave the theater.

Everything else about the movie helps it to hit higher and higher levels. The costuming is mind bogglingly good, particularly when it comes to the hair, which is so distinct for each character while maintaining a very late 70s je ne sais quoi. Bale combing over his hair is something you didn’t know you wanted to see until you watch it. The cinematography while not necessarily always my cup of tea, kept me on edge, and kept me interested. It felt like a unique blend of choices you don’t see made anymore with very modern sleek shots. It’s something else, and it’s very good.

Of course, what truly tied this movie together for me, was the soundtrack. American Hustle is jam packed with 70s rock of all stripes that always syncs up perfectly with what’s happening on screen. The collection of tracks used is amazing but it’s the choices they make on how to use that music that really makes it great. One of the best sequences in this movie has to do with “Live and Let Die,” and I’m not going to describe it to you because you have to see it. In my opinion, if you don’t enjoy the music in this, you must be deaf.

I can’t say the movie is completely perfect though. If I had to complain about anything there are two things I would hone in on. First, there’s some quirks in the script that occasionally made me go, ‘people don’t talk like that’ but so much of the dialogue is so spot-on and interesting that you probably won’t even notice the awkward lines that got through. The other thing is that it definitely feels its length at times. There were a few moments where I was just wondering when the resolution was going to finally arrive.

Oh man though, when it does…

The point is, this is a movie where I don’t want to talk about it with people who haven’t seen it because it’s that good. I want you to just go out and watch it, so that we can quote and reference it together. American Hustle is a dense drama with an amazingly dark sense of humor that will have the theater filling with laughter.

You’re not going to want to miss this.

So go out and see it.


From → Movies

One Comment
  1. xan permalink

    I found this review randomly by googling “science oven” and I have to say, it is better than spot on. I loved this movie for a lot of the exact reasons you describe, although before reading your review I would not have been able to *articulate* some of them.

    Thank you for that.

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