Director: David O’Russell; Writer: Eric Singer, David O’Russell; Starring: Christian Bale, Amy Adams, Bradley Cooper, Jennifer Lawrence, Jeremy Renner, Louis C.K., Jack Huston, Michael Pena, Shea Whigham, Robert DeNiro; Running time: 138 minutes; Certification: 15
In assembling the cast for his latest feature, David O’Russell has pulled a move akin to Christopher Nolan by amalgamating the main stars of his previous two films; Jennifer Lawrence and Bradley Cooper of Silver Linings Playbook and Christian Bale and Amy Adams of The Fighter, with only Jeremy Renner thrown in for a dash of diversity. If such a cast isn’t impressive enough on paper, each of them makes sure to leave a mark as they try to outdo each other by putting in the most loud, scenery-chewing, over the top performances of their careers, in what is sure to be – despite the January 1st release date – one of the most sensory-shocking films of the year.
Yet labelling the performances as over the top isn’t meant as a criticism; rather, an observation. All of those involved, from Lawrence’s neurotic, flirty wife to Cooper’s incessantly talky FBI agent, are only mirroring the tone and pace of a wildly rambunctious, loose-cannoned script that slows down for no-one and has fun whenever and however it wants to. These characters aren’t easy to spend time with – they’re exhausting, in fact – but their dynamic and chemistry, and the snappy pace of their exchanges, make them easy to laugh with and hilariously compelling. Because of this, American Hustle is not a relaxing film to watch; we’re having to pay close attention to a deftly intricate and subversively funny script while simultaneously being subjected to constant partying, screaming, arguments and confidently boisterous musical choices, but it’s the kind of film that, if you can find a way in, you’ll have as much fun as the people you’re watching.
The cream of the crop is very much Christian Bale and his phenomenal method acting. From buff in Equilibrium to a bag of bones in The Machinist then back to super buff in Batman Begins, one wonders how he’s possibly able to put his body through such drastic changes with almost every role. If we thought he was unable to commit more to a role than that of Dicky Eklund or Trevor Resnik, Irving Rosenfeld sets out to prove us very much wrong. Rather than strip himself down to skin and bones, he piles on the undoubtedly unhealthy pounds and impressively takes top prize for best hair in a film that sports Bradley Cooper with a perm.
O’Russell’s direction is equally as audacious and confident as everything else; full of whip pans, crash zooms and constant movement as he continuously gets in close and intimate with the action. By now it’s clear he’s a fantastic director of actors, and even more clear that’s he’s built up a strong rapport with these few in particular, getting the very brash best out of proven performers already at the top of their game. With the sheer volume of information being dished out, his film sometimes gets a little carried away with its sparky political dialogue and threatens to leave us in the dust if we’re not paying complete attention 100% of the time, but he grounds it with humour and more often than not we’ll find ourselves behind because we’re laughing so much rather than being overwhelmed by the script, which is hard not to marvel at.
American Hustle is hardly a soothing film to watch – it’s a wild, loud, flirtatious concoction of overwhelming performances, zippy direction and a sharp script – but it’s a film that, if you’re in the mood, will tick every outrageous box.