American Hustle (d. David O. Russell USA 2013)

American Hustle (d. David O. Russell USA 2013)

Please read ‘On Reviews‘ for a guide to how I write film reviews. Any spoilers are appropriately marked and, though I personally prefer to know little about a film before seeing it, there is a synopsis at the bottom for any who wish to see one.


Entertainment: starfish starfish starfish 

Performances: starfish starfish starfish

Predictability: starfish starfish starfish starfish

Technical: starfish starfish starfish starfish 


Do you remember the ’70s? The wacky fashion? The dizzying decor? The elaborate dancing? I’ll confess that I wasn’t there for the ’70s but in an era of nostalgia (see previous reviews) this was bound to happen. A quick thought must go to films similarly set in the same period. Staying Alive (d. Sylvester Stallone USA 1983), Saturday Night Fever (d. John Badham USA 1977), Forrest Gump (d. Robert Zemeckis USA 1994), A Clockwork Orange (d. Stanley Kubrick UK/USA 1971). Phantom of the Paradise (d. Brian De Palma USA 1974), Man Who Fell to Earth (d. Nicolas Roeg Uk 1976), Dazed and Confused (d. Richard Linklater USA 1993), Starsky and Hutch (d. Todd Phillips USA 2004), Austin Powers in Goldmember (d. Jay Roach USA 2002) and Dark Shadows (d. Tim Burton USA/Australia 2012). Some reflect true aspects of the era that are important to recognise whilst others make fun of the era. A question of tone: we now almost consider it a joke, so do we try to be serious or just laugh?


The performances in this film were very interesting, particularly as the characters themselves could be seen as giving their own performances. Running a fine line between what is real and is not makes it very interesting to try and guess motives and consquently, where they’ll lead. The performances dictate the narrative and the interplay of friend and foe, helper or hinderer, protagonist and antagonist, provides interest and excitement. We have to keep guessing: What is round the corner? What is that guy or that guy plotting? Ably performed by the cast, the script, comes alive, but the characters really give the films its magic!


The ’70s, what do you think of? It’s interesting to regard the careful mise-en-scène here. There are not-so-subtle hints to the time setting. It almost tributes films like Saturday Night Fever. In this film, style depicts tone. The arrangement of the decor and the costume reflects the films look. The problem is: does it look funny or serious? Though this is mostly an aspect of modern day viewpoints on this past era, American Hustle can’t escape this. So this is also a complication, as it is far harder to depict events as if from the time. Little aspects could be considered as making fun of this era. It is a fine line, a fine line for the film to walk very carefully. Whether this film works as a tribute, as a homage or as a parody. Unfortunately it is far from a parody and so may fail in its intentions – if you find it humourous. 


Despite the setting that dominates the look of this film, there is a much deeper element of characterisation. The sophisticated use of the characters and their nature to dictate the narrative, as well as their complications is commendable. Yet the best can be the worst. The characters, despite complexity, may not always be likeable – and the performances aren’t too memorable. Similarly, a good consideration of its technical features may also be its downfall. 


Further Reading

Official Site

Christian Bale’s Site

David O. Russell’s Site

Interview with Jennifer Lawrence and Christian Bale

Interview with Amy Adams

Interview with David O. Russell



Two pro Hustlers have their world turned around when a fanatical cop blackmails them into exposing corruption. 

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