Complete A-Z list

American Hustle


Stars: Christian Bale, Amy Adams, Bradley Cooper, Jennifer Lawrence, Jeremy Renner, Robert De Niro, Jack Huston, Michael Peña, Alessandro Nivola, Elisabeth Röhm, Shea Whigham, Louis CK, Colleen Camp, Anthony Zerbe, Barry Primus

Director: David O Russell

Evrybody loves a 'sting' movie. And at times this one comes close to The Sting itself, the daddy of them all. What pleasure there is in waiting for the surprise denouement (just a touch underwhelming here) to find out how everything has not been the way it has seemed.

All that said, this brilliantly-acted specimen of the genre certainly takes a long while to get round to actually pulling the wool away from our eyes, spending a tad too long blurring identities and intentions along the way.

So, despite especially good performances from Lawrence, Renner (even if he does look like he's auditioning for a remake of the Liberace story) and Bale, the latter with a paunch and mass of hair combed over a toupé and (fake) bald patch, the film doesn't quite make the front rank of its kind, while still entertaining us royally here and there, leaving us gasping at the sparkle of the dialogue, despite this being written in fast-delivered chunks that hardly mirror real life.

Bale plays Irving, a master scam-artist who owns a string of dry-cleaning shops and, in private life, takes people to a different kind of cleaners. His partner in crime is Sydney (Adams), whose acumen for conning people (as well as her perpetually plunging necklines) draws him gratefully away from the attentions of his slatternly wife (a riotous Lawrence, channelling forties' film floozies) who's to become even more of a thorn in his side when an eager-beaver treasury agent (Cooper, who not be outdone by his showy co-stars, creates a character who keeps his hair in a mass of curlers) holds off arresting the con-artists in return for them helping to snare corrupt politicians, including the local mayor (Renner).

Bale comes to like Renner, who he sees is doing the wrong thing for the right reasons, and Adams draws close to Cooper. Or does she? Her stance is uncertain throughout. You may still be working out the fine detail to all this as the credits roll.

David Quinlan

USA 2013. UK Distributor: Entertainment. Colour by deluxe.
140 minutes. Widescreen. UK certificate: 15.

Guidance ratings (out of 3): Sex/nudity 0, Violence/Horror 1, Drugs 0, Swearing 3.

Review date: 17 Dec 2013