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*** This review may contain spoilers ***
With a current user rating of 8.3 and with ten - yes, 10 - ratings of
100 from the critics, I feel crazy not liking this movie. Critic
Richard Roeper writes that "I can't imagine anyone who loves movies not
loving THIS movie."
I wanted to leave the theater and do something else after 45 minutes. No one else felt this?
When flipping through a friend's screen writing book recently, I read that the most important thing a movie has to do is have a main character that the audience sympathizes with, a main character that the audience roots for. Even in a complex case - such as the protagonist of August Wilson's wonderful play "Fences", whom we both detest and sympathize with - the audience must be drawn into actually caring about the main character.
This film didn't have a protagonist (that's not a fault - Shakespeare's "Twelfth Night" doesn't either), but still I could not have cared less about any character in this film. What was very strange, and a little unsettling, to me was that I felt this immediately, within the first five minutes of the film.
Another thing you'll learn from screen writing books is that amateur screenwriters use too much dialogue. This movie is a classic case in amateurish, dialogue-heavy scenes. Constant, ceaseless dialogue really bogged down the film for me. This film didn't have a single bone of subtlety in its entire body. Dialogue, dialogue, dialogue.
I saw in one of the trailers that this is a comedy - really!? I chuckled twice, and one of the occasions was in the film's first 30 seconds. There were several jokes that not a single person in the movie theater laughed at.
So, in summary, I guess I'm the only person in the world who didn't care for this one. Contrary to Mr. Roeper's assertion at the beginning of this review, I love movies but I strongly disliked this one. My favorite movie is Stanley Kubrick's "Barry Lyndon" - so maybe that explains it.
*** This review may contain spoilers ***
Despite it's stellar cast and great production creds, "American Hustle"
is little more than a sinners-with-a-heart of gold story. YAWN!!! It
plays like a particularly sad Woody Allen movie without the jokes. The
film is definitely not a comedy, though Jennifer Lawrence provides not
only the best character but most of the few laughs the film has.
Christian Bale and Jeremy Renner are particularly effective in their parts. Bradley Cooper does a solid job with the most complex character in the film. Amy Adams is fine, but not award worthy for a change.
Watch "The Grifters" if you want a devilishly clever con-film, because it is 1,000,000 times better.
Honestly, the NY Film Critics Assn. must have gotten a con-sized pay off for calling this the best film of the year. Is it awful? No. But neither is it memorable. Fun soundtrack, great costumes, hair/make-up and photography can't make up for a plot which is dull and characters who are so uninteresting.
First of all David O. Russell is one of my favorite directors. I've
enjoyed his films and absolutely loved "The Fighter" and "Flirting with
Disaster". This film also boasts an incredibly talented cast including
Christian Vale, Jeremy Renner and Amy Adams.
The problem is with the story, the film's pacing and length. Of course if I was enjoying the film the length would not be an issue. The film did not hold my interest and I was bored for most of it. I read that most of it is improvised, and I think this lead to it feeling very fragmented and disjointed. My mind drifted often and I checked my watch many, many times. What should have been a compelling, interesting movie was turned into a bore fest with several funny moments.
I am surprised at the overall extremely positive reviews and will watch it again when it is on cable but expect my reaction to be the same.
*** This review may contain spoilers ***
I went into this movie with the highest of expectations simply because
I did these type of gangster, conman, dramatic type of movies. However,
about 20 minutes in I was waiting and waiting for that big climax, the
first killing, the twist, etc etc. However, I was left empty and
unfulfilled throughout the entire movie.
This movie was advertised and promo'd as a serious crime, corrupt drama and it came across as a comedy moreso than a drama. It was difficult to take Bale and Cooper seriously, and the only time I really felt connected to the movie that I thought I was going to see was when Deniro hit the screen. He gave the movie a little bit of credibility, however it was short lived.
The story is fictional enough, and it kept somewhat interested, however it was too long and should have been shaven back a good 20-30 minutes. It was difficult to follow Bale's character because you could barely understand a thing he's saying. I understand that's his character, however it doesn't add any clarity to the story. It just makes it that much more confusing to understand.
The acting was nothing to write home about. I enjoyed Lawrence's performance, however I enjoyed her comedy and humor, and that was just disappointing as I didn't want to laugh in this movie. I wanted to take it seriously and I wanted to see more crime, killing and drama. It didn't deliver this unfortunately.
Anyways, if you go to see this movie, just don't expect to see a top quality, Scorcese type of crime / drama, because this isn't it. It's a weak attempt at trying to copy movies such as Goodfellas, The Town, Italian Job and Oceans Eleven.
It does have a sweet sound track, but that's not enough to save this one.
This movie, while containing decent acting performances for the most
part, was difficult and just not very enjoyable to watch. It felt as
though it was in love with itself and its whole depiction of 70s east
coast disco Guido "culture" when in fact it was just an empty,
pointless piece of bombast not half as clever as it thought it was. It
felt fake, contrived and half-baked from the first scene to the last,
and as others have noted you just didn't care one bit about anyone on
The performances were decent except for the lead FBI guy (sorry but neither his screen nor real name is worth looking up) who tended to overact. But ultimately the poor plotting & pacing and the cliché ridden visuals made this one I wish I would have missed; if there was ever a movie that proves how useless so-called professional critics are, this is it.
*** This review may contain spoilers ***
I really wanted to like this one.
But when a movie must resort to clothing its female lead for the entire movie in a dress whose neckline plunges to her waist, the viewer may conclude: (1) the actor cannot act and/or (2) the film is beset with massive script problems. Well, Amy Adams is a fine actor. (In Charlie Wilson's War she more than held her on with co-stars Tom Hanks, Julie Roberts and Philip Seymour Hoffman). Wish I could say the same about the script for American Hustle. Full of holes, meandering, lack of focus (do we really need flash backs every five minutes?), no tension and ends in a whimper.
When the director chooses to open his film with his male lead (a "brilliant con artist") gluing on a ridiculous toupee which is not part of a disguise, and which makes said lead appear more buffoonish than brilliant, the viewer may conclude (1) the script is scraping the bottom of the barrel for laughs, (2) the actor is sadly miscast. Well, we know all about the script. As for the male lead, I like Christian Bale, but he is out of his debt here. His role demands a brilliant, conniving, charismatic, fatherly, arrogant and essentially flawed soul. The movie cries out for Tom Hanks or at the very least Brad Pitt and reduces Mr. Beale to wondering through the scenes in a state of confusion mumbling his lines like a zombie.
Plot and acting problems aside you long for some good lines like:
Vincent Lauria (Cruise in The Color of Money): "I've been telling her that. I got natural character."
Eddie Felson (Newman): "That's not what I said, kid. I said you are a natural character. You're an incredible flake. But that's a gift. Guys spend half their lives inventing that."
Or from the Sting the gold standard of hustler movies: "I don't even know you." "You know me. I'm the same as you. It's two in the morning and I don't know nobody." --Loretta (Dimitra Arliss) and Johnny (Robert Redford)
But alas all we have is a character who impersonates an upper class British woman yet only uses her fake British accent when she's introduced to someone. Really, who is she going to fool? Well, an FBI agent for one. He falls for the rouse, and you are not sure who is dumb and who is dumber. (Isn't the word "background check" in his vocabulary?)
None of this would matter if the movie garners a few laughs or gives the audience the vicarious pleasure of getting back at the SOB's of the world. But in the run time of 2 hours (30% too long), I heard the audience laugh (chuckle, really) for about a minute total in 3 or 4 of the scenes. And as for revenge on the SOB's, the target of the scam was the nicest guy in the movie (Carmine Polito, the mayor of Trenton played by Jeremy Renner). The real SOB's were the scam artists and the FBI.
In the director's chair sat David O. Russell, whose "Silver Lining Playbook" I really like. Jennifer Lawrence did well and Robert De Niro's cameo gave the cast an acting lesson. Bradley Cooper, the FBI guy, should have paid more attention to De Niro.
American Hustle has generated many reviewer kudos and Oscar buzzes, but I would save my money and buy popcorn at some of the other offerings out there. This one should find its proper home on a non-premium cable channel in the near future.
Disclaimer: Taste in movies is as individual as finger prints. You may love the ones I pan, which is terrific. Find someone who's judgment you share, or even better, watch as many as you can the good, the bad, and the ugly. The best critic is always the one between your ears.
*** This review may contain spoilers ***
There is a very simple way to put this: I didn't believe it. That sums up the movie for me. Yes, there is all the razzle dazzle you can imagine. But there is nothing at the heart of this film. In Silver Linings Playbook and The Fighter, for example, I was an instant believer, I bought in immediately, and loved every second of the ensuing ride. Maybe I could tell from the trailers that we were going back to LaLa land territory. Schmooze, slick, and schtick. That's what this movie is. I was literally falling asleep. Because I never cared for a second, because I knew it was fake, the world never invited me in. Perhaps opening the movie with the old 'start halfway through the movie and then go back and show how they got to that point' tactic failed at bringing me believably along. I don't know, and it doesn't matter. The bottom line is I feel like I was never invited into a believable world. I guess it's just not that kind of movie. I had come to have high expectations after Russell's last two outings, which were basically celluloid cocaine. In those two, I was emotionally invested, in the reality, of how believable it was, and then everything else clicked. The snappy dialogue, the electric energy, the rockin' soundtrack, etc., all supported and enhanced the story, because there was a foundation laid. The believability comes from the characters and their relationships, set up by a story, or plot. Apparently Mr. Russell has lost the need for a plot as he is purported to have said when asked by Christian Bale whether the impromptu dialogue would change the story. While having a passion for characters and relationships is great, the story is an equally important element, and one that is lost here. This movie is thematically all over the place. There is little gravitas or gravity that keeps pulling us in its direction. We wander aimlessly through it, like a pimply teenager, awestruck at the glamour, not noticing that nothing is actually happening. This movie is all fluff. My favorite W.H. Auden quote also sums it up: "What the mass media offers is not popular art but entertainment, which is intended to be consumed like food, forgotten, and replaced by a new dish." The same could not be said about The Fighter and Silver Linings Playbook. So far 2013 is a bad vintage.
'American Hustle'. A amazingly entertaining and engaging experience. A
successful (in my opinion) juxtaposition of art and entertainment. A
wonderfully acted and directed film.
Full disclosure: I loved both 'The Fighter' and 'Silver Linings Play', plus the cast are some of my favourite actors working in motion pictures today. So, I went in with a bias and a high level of anticipation for this film. This can sometimes work against you as a viewer as your expectations are too higher and you are disappointed with the results.
I can say that I was not disappointed and absolutely loved the film. People take different experiences and sensibilities with them when they see movies, and mine led me to be engaged and empathetic towards the characters. Their story interested me and I came out of the cinema thoroughly enjoying myself.
My only criticism is that it felt it lacked a little something with story. After seeing the film I did read that a lot of the film was improvised and Christian Bale commented to David O'Russell that this would change the story. His response was that he cared about the characters more than the story (paraphrasing). On reflection this is evident as the characters and acting are first class.
I by no means acclaim this to be a perfect movie or the best movie ever made, but it worked for me. I loved it!
In the late 1970s, while America was swinging to rock n roll, exposing
all its flashy jewelery over plunging necklines and under unruly
hairdos, a scandalous entrapment planned by the FBI threatened several
political figures and rocked the nation in its most oddly alluring
time. David Russell reunites his cast from his previous best movies
including 'The Fighter' and 'Silver linings playbook' to tell us the
story of con artists who are led by the FBI to trap bigger fish in an
attempt to expose corruption at high levels. This highly fictionalized
version of the Abscam sting by the FBI has some meaningful
conversations, witty dialogue and glorious nonsense in its overlong
In an era of resurgent wealth and dynamic lifestyles, success is achieved with compelling ambitions amidst increasing competitiveness, only through some hustle. Right through his childhood years of conning people for his father's business, Irving Rosenfeld (Christian Bale) used the guise of legitimate businesses such as dry cleaning to conceal his beguiling loan schemes. Sydney Prosser (Amy Adams), initially suspicious of Irving's businesses, soon becomes his partner in bed and crime. Her fake identity as Lady Edith Greensly not only attracts investors lured by her supposed British financial contacts but also by her revealing attire. Soon enough however, the con-artist duo is in the grips of FBI agent Richie DiMaso (Bradley Cooper) who intends to entrap a New Jersey Mayor along with several Congressmen. Aided by a wire operator and a bogus Sheikh Abdullah (Michael Pena) who was to provide the funds for the redevelopment, the hustling of mayor Carmine (Jeremy Renner) begins with Richie, Sydney and Irving hustling each other in the process. If that wasn't enough, Irving's loud mouthed, cleavage flashing housewife Rosalyn (Jennifer Lawrence) gets them all on the edge with her erratic outbursts and ignorance of the entrapment. This sexy looking inspiration of the Abscam operation lacks a fast-paced plot and intrigue that made other conman films such as 'Catch me if you can' and 'Argo', exciting movies. Loud characters protract several insipid sequences that outlast their importance from the script. The seriousness of the entrapment plot is often overshadowed with the digressed focus on the characters and their relationships and while this dilutes the story-telling, it isn't such a bad thing when you have such a talented cast. However, one can only go so far with just acting, good looks, sexy styles and 70s tunes. David Russell fails to engage the audience with a tight script and twists in a con-artist's story that are only few and far apart. Clearly, style over substance was his approach here with entertainment left solely upon the actors' talents.
Christian Bale put on 40lbs for this movie. It isn't the first time he has transformed himself on-screen and won't be the last. This con-man draws a line on his wrong doing and hesitates on going too big with the plan. His love for Sydney grows through the movie but always comes second to his son's well being. Irving has everything likable about him, even his weirdly meticulous wig. His softer, more intelligent character is a sharp contrast to his unabashed wife. Jennifer Lawrence plays everything that is wrong and right with the film. Rosalyn can be a big mouth, whining incessantly and trying hard to prove her worthiness. But she can also be the one character whose presence just makes you nod in disbelief about what she will do next. That uncanny ability and its unpredictable deliverance is surely Lawrence's talent at work that doesn't fail to impress. Bradley Cooper is a hot-headed FBI agent whose ambition gets the better of him. There are many scenes where he clearly improvises, such as enacting Louis C.K.'s agent Thorsen and the epic moment when Sydney lays herself out on the table for him, he gets so close and simply can't handle it. The most striking aspect of Cooper's performance is that his character is so unconvincing. He is ambitious and he has the con-artists by their necks in his elaborate plan but he is still an amateur who is guided by instinct rather than experience. Jeremy Renner's Mayor Carmine shows his devotion to his city and while it took some major hustling to draw him into the plan, those interactions with Irving were quite a delight to watch. Amy Adams looks sensational and sizzles in the chemistry she builds with Irving and Richie. She portrays wit, grace and spontaneity as they adapt to changing scenarios during the sting operation and remains ever focused on the plan. Adams may not be as loud as Lawrence nor as multi-dimensional so to speak but her screen presence is equally alluring.
David Russell hasn't showcased his fine talents in a script that needed to be funnier, wittier and tighter. The actors improvise on their greyish characters and provide more entertainment than the script possibly could. That certainly isn't the film-maker's achievement but he did choose the right cast that could pull that con off on the audience. Perhaps that is the year's biggest hustle from Hollywood that bends the audience into liking material that is portrayed to be far greater than it should be accorded for. Enjoy it for the gorgeous women, the committed actors and the stylish times but do not get ensnared in the hype surrounding this hustle.
- 6.701 on a scale of 1-10.
I knew nothing about this film when we sat down in the cinema tonight
to see it, so I had no expectations. But from the opening moments I
found myself completely engaged by the acting, and interested in the
characters straight away.
Christian Bale has not done much for me in recent years, but he was captivating in this, and in every single scene. His physical transformation into a slightly overweight conman with a bad comb-over was enhanced by his believable character portrayal, and I have renewed respect for him now as an actor that can be damn interesting to watch.
Bradley Cooper was brilliant, as was Amy Adams, Jeremy Renner, Jennifer Lawrence, and Louis C.K.. There wasn't a single person that didn't pull their weight, and it makes the film's more-than-2-hour-length fly by.
There's not much in the way of physical action...in fact, I can't think of anything any action at all really...but the drama of the film is so well handled that action simply isn't necessary. Even the comedic moments were handled superbly.
I'd love to criticise something, cos no film is perfect, but this is a tough one to find fault with...maybe I would have left out Lawrence's dance scene when she mimed to Live and Let Die, cos it felt slightly at odds with the rest of the film in my opinion, but that's being seriously harsh.
So, to sum up, if you want a movie with top acting, big stars, brilliant dialogue, no over-the-top action and a well thought out story (with some historical truth mixed in), then this one is for you.
Trust me, you won't be sorry!
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