© Sony Pictures
© Sony Pictures

By Megan Bianco

David O. Russell’s American Hustle opens with the text “Some of this actually happened” and from the start, sets the right satiric mood for this rather loosely based crime flick.

Actors Christian Bale, Amy Adams and Bradley Cooper—with their extra tacky styling, fake accents and a background track of classic rock and smooth jazz—transport viewers back to 1978 and the coordination of the FBI’s ABSCAM sting operation.

Bale and Adams play partners in crime and love, Irving Rosenfeld and Sydney Prosser, who make a living as con artists. When they get caught by FBI agent Richie DiMaso (Cooper), he blackmails them into a job that requires lying and stealing from the mafia and the unaware Camden mayor Carmine Polito (Jeremy Renner).

Jennifer Lawrence plays Irving’s hilariously immature wife Rosalyn. Jack Huston, Alessandro Nivola, Louis C.K. and Michael Peña also co-star. Any reference to American Hustle as a GoodFellas (1990) rip-off would be unfair to the creators. Russell’s signature use of quick direction and smart-talking characters seep through, and Cooper’s and Adams’ comedy roots help lead the film to successful satire status. Bale is unrecognizable behind his beer belly and purple sunglasses and Lawrence easily steals all of her scenes. American Hustle is heavy on dialogue and character development and low on sex and drugs, which work in making it one of the best ensemble pieces this season.

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