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'American Hustler' does not live up to the hype

Dec. 27, 2013 @ 08:09 PM

This movie is nowhere near as good as the trailer makes it look. Director David O. Russell ("Silver Linings Playbook," "The Fighter," "Three Kings") missed out on an excellent opportunity to make a movie about the Abscam political influence scandal of the late 1970s, but definitely blew it.

His star player, Christian Bale ("Batman," "Out of the Furnace," "American Psycho") as con man Irving Rosenfeld, is a very weak character and shows no hope of ever being more than that.

Bradley Cooper ("The A-Team," "The Hangover" movies, "Alias") overplays his hand by making F.B.I. Agent Richie DiMaso somewhat of a cartoon, at times appearing to be some sort of coked-out ego freak, who would never have passed the psychological evaluation to enter the Bureau in the first place.

The only meaty character is Carmine Polito, played very low key by Jeremy Renner ("The Hurt Locker," "The Town," "The Bourne Legacy"). In spite of being a big shot politician with an expanded ego, Renner plays his character smoothly, with nary a glitch, Mr. Steady as She Goes.

The eye candy in this movie is definitely Amy Adams ("Enchanted," "Julie & Julia," "Man of Steel") as Sydney Prosser, even though the Powers That Spin want you to believe it is Jennifer Lawrence ("The Hunger Games," "Silver Linings Playbook," "Winter's Bone") as Rosalyn Rosenfeld.

Adams plays the girlfriend/crime partner of Rosenfeld, and she is superb as being the calming force and No.1 manipulator of all the puppets marching through this caper.

In the meantime, Lawrence is the jilted Mrs. Rosenfeld, making a mockery of every desperate housewife who wished for her own reality show. Her constant whining and belligerent Gun Moll attitude wears on you after a while, and while she is supposed to be in the mold of one of the Soprano family wives, she fails in the attempt.

All of this terrible acting is centered on a half-hearted attempt at recreating a Reagan-Era New Jersey. I love period pieces, but when they look like they are created on a shoe string budget, as a last minute idea, I find them lacking, to say the least.

The overly long, cops-and-robbers true crime story was largely improvised, according to Bale, and it shows. The players always seem to be looking over their shoulders for the director, as if to say, "What am I doing here?"

There is a good second tier character, played by comedian Louis C. K. ("Louie," "Parks & Recreation," "Role Models") and he actually does a more creditable job of acting than most of the stars.

The bottom line is that this could and should have been a mediocre caper film, the likes of which creeps into your multiplex several times a year. But, by Sony Pictures pushing it as a blockbuster, deemed worthy of a Christmas release, and placing major star power within its boundaries, they elevated everyone's hopes to the point that it was impossible to achieve the success that was forecast for it.

This is a direct-to-video kind of movie, no matter how much money the studio wants to throw at the publicity machine.

Billy Summers is a freelance photographer who also reviews films for the Putnam Herald. He can be reached at summers855@yahoo.com.



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