Running time: 138 minutes
Starring: Christian Bale, Bradley Cooper, Amy Adams, Jeremy Renner, Jennifer Lawrence
Who to see it with: Heist fans who laugh when looking back at 70's style
In American Hustle, con men Irving and Sydney (Bale, Adams) reluctantly become involved in an FBI investigation loosely based on the FBI's late 1970's/early 1980's ABSCAM operation. AH's plot resembles that of a heist film, with the criminals and feds forging a shaky partnership where it's hard to tell if they're not only conning their targets but also one another. It's decent but unspectacular. Fortunately, it's not the main attraction, serving mostly as an excuse to allow a group of good actors to play off of one another while outfitted in often garish, chest hair and cleavage-baring 70's clothes.
AH is best taken as a sum of its parts. The music, hair, clothes and sets are all appropriately and humorously retro and stylish. It's pretty funny, with many scenes and lines feeling a bit random. Sydney is the least funny but most complex character, spending most of her time feeling conflicted about the complications of her professional and love lives. The others have much more intense personalities that make them fit for loud, comic situations, especially Cooper's sometimes bizarre agent and Lawrence's sassy wife. The ABSCAM story is fairly engaging but weightless, and the characters are so broad and silly that I had little care for anyone's outcomes, but I can't say that I didn't enjoy seeing them react to one another and their complicated plights. And it's interesting that the film's slimier characters are more likable than the "good guys". American Hustle is fun but somewhat scattered, better at riffing on the 70's and its comically broad characters than telling its heist-like story.