Saturday 14 December 2013

AMERICAN HUSTLE - Review By Greg Klymkiw - Con Man Comedy fails to convince; Another Russell Mess!

Confidence hustlers successfully pull off a credit scam until an FBI agent ropes them into conning several politicians and the mob into getting nailed in a big nab.

American Hustle (2013) Dir. David O. Russell *1/2
Starring: Christian Bale, Amy Adams, Bradley Cooper,
Jeremy Renner, Jennifer Lawrence, Robert DeNiro

Review By Greg Klymkiw

Loosely based upon the cowardly, racist activities of the FBI during the late 70s in the sting operation referred to as ABSCAM, American Hustle is yet another annoying quirky comedy by the risible, overrated David O. Russell. The best that can be said for the film is that it's a pubic hair (or two) more tolerable than the gastro-oesophageal reflux disease masquerading as a movie, Silver Linings Playbook. Russell reduces this period of shameful American activity of entrapment and sweeping vilification of Arabs to little more than a bargain basement Scorsese-influenced trifle overflowing with caricatures rather than characters.

Christian Bale and Amy Adams are madly-in-love con artists who dupe desperate people into forking over cash they can't afford to fork over in the hope they'll receive a humungous line of credit from a (fictional) Arab Sheik.

Are you laughing yet?

Enter the increasingly sickening presence of Bradley Cooper as an FBI agent who entraps the couple and agrees not to prosecute if they help him nail greedy politicians in a graft scam. Using an FBI agent as the Arab Sheik, the couple dupes one politician after another into accepting bribes in order to facilitate Arab investment in revitalizing the Atlantic City casino business in New Jersey. The FBI captures all these exchanges on tape in order to eventually prosecute.

When this leads to Robert DeNiro as Meyer Lansky's right-hand man to get involved, the FBI is in Hog Heaven because NOW they can take the Mafia down too. Our loving couple realizes they need to do something to get out of this sticky wicket.

And, they do.

End of movie.

Loaded with a Greatest Hits of the 70s soundtrack, this pallid farce masquerading as a satirical vision of America flails along for 138 mind-draining minutes. The performers are all game and occasionally manage to get us to crack a smile or chuckle and the most astounding thing is a supporting performance by Jennifer Lawrence as Christian Bale's white trash wife that actually fulfills the promise she displayed in Winter's Bone as opposed to every other performance she's delivered that's made me want to punch her in the face.

One of the worst things about the movie is how it cavalierly treats a character played (beautifully, I might add) by Jeremy Renner - a politician who agrees to make all the meetings with higher-up politicians possible. Why? Because he genuinely cares about his constituency and is willing to go to considerable lengths in order to create a situation that could mean thousands of jobs for ordinary Americans.

So, not only do we have a movie that skirts the issues of racism against Arabs, makes light of blatant entrapment using con artists and craps all over a politician who just wants the best for the largely unemployed populace he serves, reducing the whole thing to a feel-good farce.

It's a horrendous, evil and ugly film. Those who've praised it should be ashamed of themselves.

"American Hustle" is in wide release with solid box-office and rave reviews via Sony Pictures.