Hustled and left wondering
American Hustle. Starring Christian Bale, Amy Adams, Bradley Cooper, Jennifer Lawrence, Jeremy Renner; directed by David O Russell
Have you ever come to the end of a movie and stayed in your seat, not because you've been struck by the beauty and wonder of film-making, or because you really love the song that's playing over the credits, but because you're wondering what on Earth you just sat through for the past seven and a half hours?
Well, all right, American Hustle isn't quite seven and a half hours long. But it felt like it.
Irving Rosenfeld - a nearly unrecognisable Christian Bale - is a hard-working conman in the 1970s. He never met a con he didn't like to run, and when he meets Sydney (Amy Adams) he finds a kindred spirit.
They start running a loan scam that turns out to be very successful until they run foul of the FBI in the form of Richie DiMaso (Bradley Cooper).
Richie convinces Irving and Sydney to help him draw out white collar criminals, which somehow leads to the mayor of New Jersey (Jeremy Renner) and . . . the mob.
Storywise, that's about all I got out of it. It falls apart pretty quickly, and what you're left with are the performances.
Luckily, everyone showed up for work and most of the performances are up to scratch. Bale is particularly impressive as an overweight, middle-aged conman burdened with a bad ticker, an unstable wife (Jennifer Lawrence) and an extremely annoying FBI agent.
Cooper is fine as Richie DiMaso, if extremely annoying. Amy Adams makes the absolute best of her role - and, it has to be said, her cleavage in a series of Charlies Angels-inspired outfits - and holds her own against Bale, which has the knock-on effect of creating excellent chemistry.
Lawrence's role as the wronged wife is fairly thankless and rather two-dimensional but she makes it memorable and colourful with some well-timed scenery chewing.
Nearly two week later, though, I still don't know what the movie was actually about.
The Southland Times