American Hustle

January 5, 2014 - Writer/Director David O. Russell follows up his Oscar-winning Silver Linings Playbook with another solid effort. He brings back Jennifer Lawrence and Bradley Cooper and adds Amy Adams and Christian Bale. The cast also includes Jeremy Renner and Louis C.K. Robert DeNiro makes a surprise appearance. The story here is set in the late Seventies and is loosely based on Abscam, the FBI sting operation that took down several politicians.

Bale and Adams play a pair of con artists in New York City. He's Irving Rosenfeld, who does have some legit businesses, but who's making more money by taking fees from desperate people for loans that will never be given. Adams is Sydney Prosser. She hooks up with Irving and invents a British persona named Lady Edith, who helps add some class and cred to Irving's growing scam operation. That all changes when ambitious FBI agent Richie DiMaso (Cooper) gets the better of them. He promises them freedom if they help him catch fish that get increasingly bigger and more dangerous.

One of the fish in the pond is the idealistic Carmine Polito (Renner), mayor of Camden, NJ. Jennifer Lawrence plays Rosenfeld's wife, whose recklessness threatens to blow the whole thing. By the end, Irving and Sydney need to pull off the con of a lifetime if they want to get out of this mess alive.

Overall review: *** Major points for acting, but I'm knocking off a star because the plot is a little convoluted and because the movie, which runs 2:18, felt a little long. But, there's a lot of energy here and, as I said, the acting is terrific. Bale and Cooper are good, but Adams shines, and Lawrence outshines her. I expect an Oscar nod for Lawrence and maybe one for Adams, too. Also, I won't be surprised if Russell gets nominated for directing or screenplay or both.