The movie “American Hustle” is based on a series of real events that took place surrounding what was dubbed as the Abscam Washington scandal that rocked the nation during 1970s. American Hustle is a movie about quintessential hustle for money, power, royalty, plunging necklines, head full of hair, and ego and power, characteristic of the capitalistic west. Director David O. Russell has done a brilliant job, and the movie has a stellar cast to represent all the memorable characters. Entry of each character scales what is at stake and builds the excitement. Here is a spoiler alert for the entire review below.
SPOILER ALERT * * * *
The movie begins with the story of a brilliant con man Irving Rosenfeld (superbly played by Christian Bale) who figures out “how easy it is to take money from desperate people”. Rosenfeld is hilarious, subscribes to his own set of principles, and is obsessive about his hair. (He is not the only one obsessing about hair but more on that later). Rosenfeld decided he needed a partner with some polish and finesse to grow his con business. He promised to secure mega loans for his trusting clients, some of whom got duped twice.
Amy Adams is superb in her role as Rosenfeld’s partner in crime, Sydney Prosser, who later becomes his mistress. To their clients, she goes by as a Brit, Lady Edith. She is nobility; smart, successful, flashy, and beautiful, who meticulously curls her hair, and dresses in exquisite clothes with plunging necklines. While enabling her lover, Prosser was not fully aware of the extent of his crime, until the feds targeted her and had a warrant for her arrest.
And so enters another colorful character, FBI agent Richie Di Maso (played by brilliant Bradley Cooper). Di Maso promises to drop charges against Rosenfeld and Prosser, if Rosenfeld would work with the FBI to uncover a bigger crime, involving politicians and other public figures. Rosenfeld agrees and the trio become new partners in crime with a goal to “trap” other high profile figures. If obsession with hair is any indication of vanity, DiMaso is as obsessed with hair as his other two partners. He is also obsessed with getting as many convictions as possible, regardless of costs in money or ethics or relationships. Lavish schemes are hatched, meetings are organized, money needs are identified, and Di Maso cajoles, begs, promises success and ultimately succeeds in convincing his budget conscious superiors to shell out money for a grand front, replete with dome Perignon, authentic Louis XVI furniture, and even rented Lear Jet with (Mexican American FBI agent Michael Pena) ridiculously funny, fake Arab Sheik.
The target of elaborate scheme to entrap the rich and famous begins with the beloved, popular, and family man; the charismatic Mayor of New Jersey, Carmine Polito (played beautifully by Jeremy Renner) and eventually involves several politicians and Mafia bosses, including notorious and violent Mafia overlord Victor Tellegio (Robert De Niro).
Even from such a stellar cast, Jennifer Lawrence manages to steal the thunder in her role as Rosenfeld’s wife. Her husband refers to her as “Picasso of passive-aggressive karate”. With her passive aggressive tactics, she holds Rosenfeld tightly on a leash, so he cannot leave her, but she isn’t afraid to hook up with a mafia underling and naively spills secrets, almost giving away the FBI sting operation.
I think enough secrets are spilled here. Watch the movie to learn about the scandal where the FBI agent himself got caught up in ego and greed and kept raising the stakes, a scandal that in the end trapped him in his own greed; a scandal that resulted in real-life, in sixteen convictions, and brought down famous people, hustling to acquire more of everything they had plentiful. With terrific star power, fantastic mix of mystery, evil, greed, and comic relief, this can quite possibly be the best movie of the year. I rate it a 4.8 on a 1 to 5
scale, with 5 being excellent.