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Christian Bale
Amy Adams
Bradley Cooper
Jennifer Lawrence
Robert De Niro
Jeremy Renner
Louis C.K.
Michael Pena
Jack Huston.
David O. Russell.
David O. Russell
Eric Singer.
Running Time
138 minutes

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American Hustle
That's '70s Scam

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1978. Seasoned confidence tricksters Irving Rosenfeld (Bale) and Sydney Prosser (Adams) cut a deal with FBI agent Richie DiMaso (Cooper) to dob in other offenders in return for clemency. However, Irving’s loose-cannon wife Rosalyn (Lawrence) threatens to derail the plan.

American Hustle
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This opens with a caption that claims its story is “mostly true”, which has in the annals of crime cinema historically covered a spectrum of veracity and mendacity ranging from In Cold Blood to Fargo, but tries to position American Hustle as more significant than the average twisty con-inside-a-con crime movie.

 Like Pain & Gain, it’s as much a portrait of the excesses of its era as it is criminal reportage, with an unusual emphasis on 1970s hairstyles as symptoms of the Carter years. The opening shows Christian Bale, demonstrating his Machinist super-power of altering his body at will by sporting an impressive paunch, applying the toupee, glue, spray and hair-sculpting moves necessary to create his disco comb-over. Later, the film gives equal time to the tiny and huge curlers Bradley Cooper and Amy Adams’ characters require for their respective ’dos.

Writer-director David O. Russell reunites with the stars of his last two movies — Bale and Adams from The Fighter and Cooper and Jennifer Lawrence from Silver Linings Playbook — and again gives them roles all-but-guaranteed to land multiple awards nods. Russell seems to be the go-to guy for talents whose profiles have been raised by blockbuster superhero movies but want to show they can still act without spandex and CGI, with Jeremy Renner joining the gang as the world’s most likable and honourable crooked politician. There’s even room for an unbilled surprise guest appearance by a screen legend who has been relaxing of late but can still turn on the steely menace when prompted, cast as a Mob boss who springs a disorientating surprise at a crucial stage in the con by talking directly to the fake sheikh in actual Arabic.

However, American Hustle is a showcase rather than a truly great movie. The intricate, attenuated plot threatens to address corruption in America but any point keeps getting lost in its own trickery. Unrepentant con men, crooked politicians and (even) murderous Mafia bosses are more honest and admirable here than the FBI sting operatives out to take them down. The message might be to leave institutionalised crime well enough alone — Rosenfeld seems to express the script’s message when he says that “after Vietnam and Watergate”, the country doesn’t need another disillusioning political scandal. Besides, the film keeps showing us that con men are fun — they have enviable dress sense, live large in a way the movies are hardwired to admire more than plodding decency, and aren’t notably more deceitful and money-grubbing than the forces of law and order, just better at pulling the rug out from under the marks and waltzing away with a smile.

On a scene-by-scene basis, it’s undoubtedly a dazzling film, albeit with many lifts from the Martin Scorsese and Paul Thomas Anderson playbooks. Casino and Boogie Nights are explicitly evoked, and one flashback might literally be a GoodFellas outtake. The camera prowls through ’70s luxury hotels and suburban homes, wincing at the thick carpets and the eye-abusing curtains, pausing to relish the kitschy tableware or clunky furniture. It makes persuasive use of a double album’s worth of 1970s chart hits, with major dramatic moments sold by selections from Elton John’s back catalogue.

Meanwhile, Lawrence cements her current can-do-no-wrong status in an extraordinary scene, just after her character has set a fiendish revenge scheme in motion, as she sings along to Live And Let Die while aggressively cleaning her house in yellow kitchen gloves and gloating over the deadly pickle she’s just landed her faithless husband in. Cooper is stuck with the least rewarding role, but keeps finding brilliant little bits of business to hold the attention: watch him do spot impersonations of his overly cautious (but smart) boss during a premature victory celebration. Bale, in velvet jacket, and Adams, in dresses so low-cut that double-sided Sellotape must be involved to preserve decency, play conners who are always on — Adams’ Sydney poses as British aristocracy with a Diana Rigg accent for most of the film — but gradually show their real personalities and become appalled by what they’ve got into, though the film becomes less convincing when its brittly amoral double-dealers start showing a rudimentary conscience.

An extremely entertaining, brilliantly acted, highly diverting film which — like all hustles — delivers less than it promises. Still, it’s worth being taken for the ride.

Reviewed by Kim Newman

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Your Reviews

Average user rating for American Hustle
Empire Star Rating

Four stars for: acting, direction, cinematography and style. If it wasn't for these things being executed so well, then this would be an average three stars for me. The plot started to wear thin very quickly and there was no exciting reveal or drama as the film was brought to a conclusion. There was also a distinctive lack of humour, which I wasn't expecting. However, all in all, like it has already been said: it was fun being taken for the ride. ... More

Empire User Rating

Posted by danfacey711 at 22:52, 09 May 2014 | Report This Post


Stereotypes, and more stereotypes....Doesn't Hollywood ever get tired of the same old tired stereotypes? ... More

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Posted by patjoseph at 10:36, 22 March 2014 | Report This Post

RE: Great story but difficult to follow

I think O. Russel should has backed to a primal name of the movie "American bullshit". In such manner it wouldn't be so sad for me after the watching cause it is only "C". In a word it is a razzle-dazzle and a boring chinwag where the writer's theme is hidden (or even dug under) behind the gorgeous decorations and glaring make up. Bale. He is the main reason I started to watch the subject (being a fan up to this time) and I didn't care about the movies' nominations (and it's fair it got n... More

Posted by khaos11 at 11:55, 05 March 2014 | Report This Post

Great story but difficult to follow

storyline was complicated...... but the actors and actresses are superb!!!!! ... More

Empire User Rating

Posted by Ciaran McDaid at 19:26, 27 February 2014 | Report This Post

tp://]Amer ican Hustlefter having watched a number of his films it`s still a miracle to me where all the praise for David O. Russel is coming from. American Hustle doesn`t change that, I`m still not convinced although it is the best film I`ve seen of him so far. His newest work might be best described as Goodfellas 2.0, wich at the same time is way too much honour. It`s pretty clear where O. Russel got his (film technical) inspiration from: the flas... More

Empire User Rating

Posted by TheGodfather at 20:55, 09 February 2014 | Report This Post

RIVETING Drama!!!!

Engaging and thoroughly gripping fact (almost) based drama from David O. Russel. Here we are introduced to con artists Irving Rosenfield a brilliant Christian Bale, complete with removable 70's hair piece and beer gut. And his partner in crime the sultry Amy Adams as Sydney Prosser complete with fake British accent as "Lady Edith Greensley". Things are going sweet for the pair until their antics are caught red handed by f.B.I agent Richie DiMaso (Bradley Cooper) and they are forced to prepar... More

Empire User Rating

Posted by Ramone87 at 18:33, 06 February 2014 | Report This Post

RE: American Hustle

Really? I personally loved Bales performance the most. I think this movie really portrayed an outstanding character for him. ... More

Posted by RobsRants at 00:38, 27 January 2014 | Report This Post

okay but not outstanding

I was hoping for, and expecting a little more. Some great acting, some great scenes and a fantastic soundtrack but it is the plot that kind of ends up being average. I was expecting a long con reveal only to find the ending a damp squib. Interesting journey but not an satisfying as it should have been, ... More

Empire User Rating

Posted by bretty at 20:17, 20 January 2014 | Report This Post


This film is enjoyable – up to a point - but it’s definitely not the politically charged, cutting edge, laugh fest satire that some of the trailers and reviews would have you believe. A dialogue heavy script with lots of “showboating” by a talented cast which is all designed to catch the academy’s eye, a droll first person styled narrative which seems to have been nicked straight out of a Scorsese gangster flick, a surprisingly unbilled cameo by an actor from a Sco... More

Empire User Rating

Posted by ROTGUT at 17:48, 20 January 2014 | Report This Post

RE: American Hustle

An enjoyably amusing romp, although I have to say I'm a little taken aback by all the acting nods this seems to be getting, the cast are good don't get me wrong, Bale and Adams in particular, but I'm not sure their turns are award worthy. 3.5/5 ... More

Empire User Rating

Posted by paulyboy at 16:14, 20 January 2014 | Report This Post

RE: American Hustle

This film is like Marmite to be honest you either love it or you hate it, that being said after watching it a couple of weeks ago I had to say that it is a great film with a average storyline propped up with quality acting. The first half an hour was really boring to be generally had this been on TV or DVD not sure I would of watched the rest. Which would of been a shame as I would of missed the storyline pick up from there and become interesting and to say the least despite all the qual... More

Posted by Avfctom at 15:24, 20 January 2014 | Report This Post

RE: American Hustle

This film seems to have divided people. Plenty of people, who probably know a lot more than I do about film, have been quite vocal in their criticisms of this film. Others seem to have loved it, including many of the awards bodies. Personally, I went along with reasonably high expectations based on the cast, the director, and the award nominations. I thoroughly enjoyed the film and left with a big grin on my face, and my expectations justified. It may not be the best film ever made, ... More

Empire User Rating

Posted by beancounter at 11:02, 20 January 2014 | Report This Post

RE: American Hustle

Absolutely enjoyable. One of my fave flicks made in 2013. I wouldn't be surprised if this gets the Oscar for best picture. ... More

Posted by m_er at 09:53, 19 January 2014 | Report This Post

RE: American Hustle

L: Hood_Man Great performances from all, but I thought it was kind of messy. A very entertaining film though, I just wonder if it would get any attention without the amazing cast. think that DOR is extremely, extremely lucky in the cast that he has accrued who obviously respect him from previous collaborations to make a decent fist of this. To my mind O Russell will always be the guy that George Clooney had by the fucking throatIn Burn After Reading the Coens threw together a ramshac... More

Posted by demoncleaner at 20:13, 17 January 2014 | Report This Post

RE: American Hustle

Great performances from all, but I thought it was kind of messy. A very entertaining film though, I just wonder if it would get any attention without the amazing cast. ... More

Posted by Hood_Man at 19:42, 17 January 2014 | Report This Post

RE: American Hustle

I think the film looks and feels better than it actually is. When you think about it, it's pretty mediocre - one of those films that constantly threaten to turn brilliant but never really do. Quite underwhelming, actually. ... More

Empire User Rating

Posted by bozo at 16:48, 17 January 2014 | Report This Post

RE: American Hustle

I really wish I could find an atom of the wit this film thinks it's in possession of. It's like a 2 and a half hour cure for involuntary smirking. For me the secret of American Hustle is that David O Russell once saw Casino...and some day he thought he might like to do that. I bet he also saw Pushing Tin, and liked the palpability and kookiness of the two female leads, and the tightly wound nature of the two males. The muscular and barbed scripting. The result of in some way trying to br... More

Empire User Rating

Posted by demoncleaner at 21:39, 13 January 2014 | Report This Post

Great acting performance but just ok movie

Great direction and brilliant acting performances from a well cast ensemble group of actors and actresses but deep down its just an 'ok' movie. Normally the type of movie best watched at home on DVD or shown on TV. A good measurement of what makes a movie great for me is how often I would want to watch it....any great would be happy to watch again and again. For example... sometimes you catch the movie on TV and despite the fact you probably own a copy of the DVD, you cant change ove... More

Empire User Rating

Posted by jeffamania at 11:47, 13 January 2014 | Report This Post

Average Hustle

Apart from the performances, there isn't really anything astonishing about this flick. How it is nominated for any awards is beyond me. Even Bale's nominations are puzzling as he is much better in Out of the Furnace. The problem with Hustle (apart from it's ridiculously long running time) is that it tried to be too smart and over complicated the plot. You kind of expect the movie to be slick and smooth with a title that includes "Hustle", but it's just all over the place. Definitely on... More

Empire User Rating

Posted by J_BUltimatum at 21:08, 12 January 2014 | Report This Post

Stop it with the spoilers Empire!

Great film. If there's an Oscar category for best comb-over Bale has it in the bag :-) Great performances across the board, although a few scenes felt a bit "This is my Oscar clip" / "No....this is MY Oscar clip!!" and so on... Can't remember the last time I watched a film in a packed cinema with an audience totally engrossed in the film - a great experience, highly recommended ... More

Empire User Rating

Posted by drew42 at 00:03, 09 January 2014 | Report This Post

RE: American Hustle

Really enjoyed this. Excellent performances all round. ... More

Empire User Rating

Posted by spamandham at 16:46, 07 January 2014 | Report This Post

You have got to be kidding me!?

Same old story! Great acting, looks good, great soundtrack, terrible storyline! It was funny in places and the the last ten minutes was good but apart from that not even Jennifer Lawrences's great performance could save this from being dull as fuck! I appear to be in the minority but life would be pretty boring if we all liked the same shit :-) ... More

Empire User Rating

Posted by guysalisbury at 22:50, 04 January 2014 | Report This Post


Fantastic movie, really enjoyable. Laugh out loud funny in places, with equally dramatic and dark moments. It doesnt quite come off as clever as you want it to, but thats just being ultra-critical. Cast is really excellent, O'Russell gets fine perfomances again... and Jennifer Lawrence is unplayable, she really is untouchable at the moment. Best supporting Actress for sure! ... More

Empire User Rating

Posted by Samurai7 at 09:56, 02 January 2014 | Report This Post

RE: American Hustle

Christian Bale and Amy Adams definitely deserves an Oscar Nomination for their leading roles. Chemistry! The whole film itself was great. Though, the big twist at the end felt kinda underwhelming. It could've been bigger. ... More

Posted by Filmmaking_Jet at 07:44, 02 January 2014 | Report This Post

RE: American Hustle

Not quite everything it could (or should) be, American Hustle is worth the price of admission just to see a great cast give some fine performances. There's just the nagging feeling that it's all for nought; too exaggerated to be real, not enough fun to be fiction. ... More

Empire User Rating

Posted by TheMightyBlackout at 00:45, 02 January 2014 | Report This Post

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