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Movie review: American Hustle makes for delicious debauchery

Based on the 1970s-early 1980s Abscam scandal in USA, in which the FBI employed con artists to carry out sting operations, the film, starring the likes of Christian Bale and Jennifer Lawrence makes for quite the 'Oscar-fest'.

movie reviews Updated: Feb 16, 2014 16:55 IST
Durga M Sengupta
Durga M Sengupta
American Hustle,Jennifer Lawrence,Christian Bale

David O. Russell's American Hustle, going by the star cast, makes for quite the 'Oscar-fest'. Starring Academy award winners Jennifer Lawrence and Christian Bale and Academy nominees Amy Adams and Bradley Cooper, critics are lapping this one up.

Based on the 1970s-early 1980s Abscam scandal in USA, in which the FBI employed con artists to carry out sting operations, the film joins the recurring theme of delicious debauchery after The Great Gatsby and The Wolf of Wall Street this year.

And it won't let you settle in your seats.

"American Hustle is absolutely not a history lesson. Which will likely - rightly, even - vex a few moviegoers. And the winking caveat at the start that 'Some of this actually happened' won't soothe all souls," writes Lisa Kennedy in Denver Post.

"Everything about American Hustle, David O. Russell's wild and woolly take on the late-'70s FBI sting operation code-named Abscam, is big," says Steven Rea.

"And the biggest thing of all is the love story that beats at the heart of this rollicking disco-era ensemble piece. When Irving Rosenfeld (Christian Bale), a con artist with a dry-cleaning business on the side, and Sydney Prosser (Amy Adams), a grifter who slips into an upperclass-y British alter ego, meet at a pool party, their eyes lock. They bond over Duke Ellington. Never mind that he's married, with a son. Or that she's on the prowl for her next mark. They're inevitable."

"American Hustle is a movie built on that cornerstone of the American Dream, reinvention. If you're not happy with who you are, or who people think you are, then go ahead and become somebody else. Anything to survive - and thrive," notes Rea in

What of the jaw-dropping star-cast?

"Save your admiration for the performances, especially Lawrence, who is now Hollywood's most important presence in front of the camera. At 23, she's proved her dramatic chops (Winter's Bone), established herself as a global-franchise action star (The Hunger Games, X-Men) and, under Russell's tutelage, emerged as a terrific comedienne, scoring an Oscar for her role in Silver Linings Playbook. The character of Rosalyn - a mash-up of Carole Lombard, Lady Macbeth and maybe even Regan from The Exorcist - is by far the most hair-raising phenomenon in a movie bristling with high hair," writes an impressed Liam Lacey in The Globe and Mail.

Tom Long points out Russell's winning mantra in Detroit News. "When you're going this wacky and wide it helps to have an ace cast, and Russell certainly has that, gathered for the most part from his past two films." (The Fighter and The Silver Linings Playbook)

"Each kooky character brings his or her own set of desires and dreams to this story, whether it's a quest for glory or just an easy scam. And no one is that easy to pin down - the corrupt politician may have good intentions, the over-anxious cop may be a slave to his own delusions of grandeur," writes Long appreciatively.

Joe Neumaier of NY Daily News puts in a good word for the cinematographer...

"In a movie about wild cards, it would be easy to let the visuals spin out of control. Cinematographer Linus Sandgren, however, keeps the handheld camerawork fluid, not frantic. The movie overall never winks at its gaudy moment in time. Russell never opens the door for an easy joke or a lazy reference."

...and the choice of music.

"The intoxicating parade of losers thinking they're winners, set to a hot soundtrack, puts American Hustle in the company of Goodfellas and Boogie Nights. But this one is absolutely its own creation."

Ready, set, Oscars?

First Published: Jan 16, 2014 14:43 IST