Movie Review: American Hustle

Jean-Paul’s Rating: 4/5 Stars

Bottom Line:  This movie is total Oscar bait.  Well acted, well directed, great cinematography, and awesome costume design.  It’s a little slow, though.

“American Hustle” is a movie very loosely based on the FBI ABSCAM sting operation from the late 70s in which they hired a con man to catch crooked politicians.  It tells the story of two con artists who are caught by the FBI and then forced to help the FBI capture more con artists.  The little fish keep offering up bigger fish and, with an FBI agent who has his eyes on promotions, they soon find themselves going after politicians and the mob as what was supposed to be a few simple arrests of low level operators quickly spins out of control.

The movie itself is gorgeous.  It’s a period piece and I am told they recreated the period beautifully.  I was too young to really remember the 70s, but from pictures and the crappy clothes my parents dressed me in, I can say that the styles seem accurate.  The set designs and the costuming alone almost make the movie worth going to, if you’re in to that sort of thing.

More importantly, though, the cast is absolutely outstanding.  Every scene between Jennifer Lawrence and Christian Bale and their warped co-dependant relationship is fantastic.  And the scenes between Bradley Cooper and Louis C.K. and their abusive boss/employee relationship are possibly even better.  But that’s just to point out the best acting parts.  Everyone is terrific in this movie.

The movie does, however, start kind of slow.  They take a lot of time to set up all of the characters.  Some may argue too much time, but it really helps to get a feel for who they are and where they come from.  It establishes depth that helps make the characters relatable.  As the FBI con keeps getting more and more complicated and the tension builds, the movie just gets better and better.  I found myself completely in the dark as to how events would unfold.  It is not often a movie does that to me.

This is going to be one of those movies that people either love or hate, I think.  I am certainly in the love column.  There is a lot to love, but many people will probably be turned off by the slow build even if the end result is well worth it.

As an added note, I was surprised to learn that the movie only made around $20 million this weekend.  The theater that I was in was fairly crowded.  It must be one of those things where the area demographics where just perfect for the movie.