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The con is on… and off!

American Hustle***

The con is on… and off!
*ing Christian Bale, Amy Adams,
Bradley Cooper, Jennifer Lawrence
Directed by: David O. Russell
Tagline: Everyone Hustles To Survive
Only 7 people were in the cinema!
RESPONSE: 7 people … are you kidding???
For a flick that has been nominated for 10 categories in the Academy Awards, David O Russell’s American Hustle doesn’t fit the bill. Unlike Gravity, it is not gripping; unlike Titanic, it isn’t a glorified account of a disaster and unlike Gladiator, it hasn’t been created on a large canvas with a story as big as Rome. It is a con film in which things have gone bad since the stepping in of the FBI … but good things come to those who wait. So the audience waits!

The simple plot set in the simple 70s!

Set in the year 1978, American Hustle is the story of a bulky conman Irving Rosenfeld (Christian Bale) and his mistress Sydney Posser (Amy Adams), who is an ex-stripper-turned-drifter. They manage to con many but all is not well in their paradise. Irving is married to Rosalyn (Jennifer Lawrence) and loves her kid as his very own. To make matters more complicated, FBI agent Richard DiMaso (Bradley Cooper) blackmails them into acting as bait for the ‘big fish’. The duo becomes a trio and things take an ugly turn! The con… is on!

What I was expecting?

American Hustle has 10 Oscar nominations! That made me wonder what was so special about the movie. I am one of the many fans of British TV series Hustle and American TV show Leverage (both ended in 2012), therefore I was expecting a gripping con film along the lines of the Ocean’s trilogy in which the good guys win with their ability to con big. Sadly, for more than 2 hours, the 6 people and I in the cinema kept wondering what was going on the screen where renowned actors were doing their best to keep you engrossed, and except for Christian Bale, all were failing badly!

 What I wasn’t expecting?

The con turned out to be so simple that even one of us could have come up with that! That’s the point where I would be glad to argue with anyone because I was expecting a The Usual Suspects sort of twist, but clearly, I was expecting too much. Yes the 70s were created brilliantly by the production team but for me, a con delayed … is a con gone bad.american-hustle2

There are some scenes in which the viewer is taken aback, including the one where Robert De Niro appears on screen. He plays his usual self – a mobster who can surprise even fellow mobsters. Bradley Cooper plays and looks like an FBI agent thanks to his beard and curls; whereas, Jeremy Renner wore a wig that seemed to have come up from Elvis’s closet. And then there was Michael Peña as a Mexican FBI agent pretending to be an Arab sheikh, the man whose money everyone wanted!

What I did experience …

If donning a wig and speaking in a 70s accent is good enough to guarantee you an Oscar nomination, then Jennifer Lawrence deserved every bit of the nomination. She didn’t do much with her appearance (except talk fast, look annoying and be irritating) and that’s why Christian Bale’s heavy-duty role looks better in every aspect. His toupées, tinted glasses and peculiar  way of talking makes you wonder whether he really was the man who played Batman till last year! Amy Adams was clearly the most disappointing of the lot. Her British accent was terrible and although it was supposed to be fake, it was supremely unconvincing. Even then, she has been nominated for an Oscar, that too for Best Actress!

What I will never forget …

American Hustle may be a great film for those familiar with the history of FBI but not many know about it outside the States. Christian Bale’s character is based on Melvin Weinberg who helped the FBI by bringing down the real bad guys – the mayor of Camden along with his accomplices that included congressmen, mobsters and a senator. Like the film, the sting was built around a fake sheikh, however the director turns his story into a feature film where the mayor is the good guy and those after his blood have their own agendas!american-hustle3

And the (flawed) Oscar connection!

I have always believed that the best film doesn’t get an Academy Award nomination and the 10 nominations of American Hustle have made my belief stronger. For their run-of-the-mill acting, Amy Adams and Jenifer Lawrence were nominated for an Oscar but the extraordinary acting by Emma Thompson (Saving Mr. Banks), Tom Hanks (Captain Phillips), Robert Redford (All Is Lost) and Daniel Brühl (Rush) weren’t even considered. It seems that actresses with gaping necklines are more likely to get an Oscar than the ones who actually set the bar high. If the women of American Hustle win an Oscar (or two), that would be the death of quality acting. Period.

Among all the nominations, Christian Bale’s (for Best Actor) seems the most valid, as does the Best Director nomination for David O. Russell. American Hustle is a good time pass film but it is certainly not better than the many films produced in 2013. For those who have lived on Ocean’s trilogy, Hustle and Leverage, it is the audience who have been conned in the American Hustle!

 The writer works for Geo TV and can be contacted at [email protected]

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