December 22, 2013

Critical Capsule: American Hustle

So, David O. Russell's latest has arrived in theaters around the country, a little Christmas gift for his fans all over the country. There is no doubt the guy has been on a bit of a roll, his last two films have each won Oscars (The Fighter, Silver Linings Playbook), was it too much to ask for the luck to continue? Probably not, but then again... His new movie is called American Hustle and it features an all star cast and arrives with plenty of hype to get the public excited for it. So how did it do? Well, sadly, my reaction was rather meh.

This is not to say it is a bad movie, it just isn't a great one. I kind of feel like they try to blind you with the all star cast (Bale, Cooper, Adams, Lawrence, Renner, DeNiro, Louie C.K.) so that you wouldn't realize it isn't as interesting as it thinks it is. Unfortunately, it really isn't. Still, it is the kind of movie that I can understand people really liking, it just didn't for me. It really isn't a case of not getting it, it is more of it just not working for me.

The movie, which chronicles an ambitious FBI agent's efforts to go after top mob and political figures using a low level hustler to encourage payoffs and pay off bribes until it all backfires. Sure, it is an interesting story, but it is not one that I felt particularly invested in. American Hustle is a nice looking movie and it does have its entertaining moments. I think the problem is the largely improvised script.


The improvisation gives the story a a freewheeling feel, as if the characters could do or say anything at anytime. I kind of like that chaotic element, but the thing of it is, is that sometimes it feels like they forget where they are, or don't know what to say next, what works for comedy may not be a good way to go with drama. The movie has some voice over, and I think it may be in part to help the plot along its rails and part to help cover the improvisations. Sometimes it feels like Russell handed out 70's stereotype cards and just let them loose, forget having control of the set.

I don't know. It had funny moments, looked good, and wasn't terrible. I just don't think it is as great as many would have you believe. The freewheeling characters and anarchic plot focus was not a combination I enjoyed, at least not this time.

Mildly Recommended.


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