Before I even watched “American Hustle,” the movie had a lot going for it.
• The film stars four of today’s best actors: Amy Adams, Christian Bale, Bradley Cooper, Jennifer Lawrence.
• The film’s character actors are also talented: Louis C.K., Robert DeNiro and Jeremy Renner.
• The plot is based on a real-life fascinating event, an FBI sting operation which went after corrupt government politicians in the 1970s and 1980s.
So I went into the movie theater with some excitement and anticipation, and I wasn’t disappointed.
“American Hustle” was a lot of fun, from the opening scene through more than two hours of assorted capers, hijinks and lots of scenery-chewing.
No one actor purposefully overshadows another and director David O. Russell (“The Fighter” and “Silver Linings Playbook” among others) skillfully ensures this is completely an ensemble effort.
However, Amy Adams’ performance left the most memorable impression on me, due in no small part to to the deeply layered character she plays, con artist Sydney posing as the British upperclass Lady Edith Greensley. Sydney is beautiful and confident on the outside, but living a life of quiet desperation on the inside as she struggles to make a better life for herself.
Sydney falls in love and in cahoots with another con artist, Irving, easily played by Christian Bale, almost unrecognizable in a bad hair piece and proudly sporting a beer belly.
Of course, it’s complicated.
Irving is already married and shares a son with Rosalyn, played with gleeful instability by Jennifer Lawrence, who steals the few scenes she’s given.
Further complicating matters is FBI agent Richie, played by an over-the-top Bradley Cooper who’s obviously having a lot of fun. Richie catches Irving and Sydney redhanded in one of their scams, but offers them a deal — he’ll give them a break if they help him take down a few other people.
And then it really gets complicated, and enjoyably so.
Louis C.K., most popularly known as a sharp comedian, is a standout in his role as Richie’s FBI boss Stoddard.
And Jeremy Renner, who has underwhelmed me in other movie roles, was a surprising impressment in his role as the popular but naive mayor of Camden, N.J.
“American Hustle” is nominated for seven Academy Awards and it deserves at least a few. It’s not the most dramatic, thought-provoking epic of the current awards season, but it’s full of talent and a heck of a lot of fun.
“American Hustle” is rated R, mostly for strong language, plus some brief sexuality and violence.