Customer Review

6 of 8 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Overhyped? certainly. Over-rated? probably., 23 Jun. 2014
This review is from: American Hustle [DVD] [2013] (DVD)
A lot of talent working hard in this movie, but only with sporadic success. One of the biggest names, Robert De Niro, has an uncredited cameo, and unkind though it might be to say, I think his decision to keep his name off the credits was a wise one. The problem is with the rhythm and direction -- there are scenes that seem either unnecessary or to go on to long. For example, the scene with the agents who believe that they have just taped an incriminating phone call is probably not needed, but certainly goes on far too long. The scene with Richie (Bradley Cooper) and Sydney (Amy Adams) in the bathroom stall adds nothing to our grasp of these characters or to the plot. The running gag of Richie's boss (Louis C. K.) and the ice-fishing story is weak and unnecessary The big party scene involving the sheikh and the mobsters -- way too long. Carmen Polito, mayor of Camden, NJ, goes on and on about how his constituents are his family, long after we get it. The energy of the actors and the excellent production values aren't enough to save these scenes, and they throw the rhythm out of kilter.

George Roy Hill's "The Sting" ran like clockwork -- like the sting itself. This is a sort of sting movie, and (thanks to Rosalyn [Jennifer Lawrence], the wife of con-man Irving Rosenfeld [Christian Bale]) the sting DOESN'T run like clockwork -- but the movie should, and it doesn't. The con artists, Irving and Sydney, are constantly having to adapt to unforeseen circumstances -- and there is a possibility of humor in that -- but the adjustments aren't always as funny as they could be. There is a certain satisfaction in the ending's showing that folks who have to con for a living are better at it than the government, but I'm not sure that that makes up for the dull patches on the way. I think that Cooper, Adams, Lawrence, and Bale -- as well as Jeremy Renner, who plays Carmine Polito -- are fine, and some local scenes work well enough, but not enough of them.

Viewers shouldn't expect a satire on the level of "M.A.S.H." or "Network." Despite the title "American Hustle" it's not clear that there's anything specifically American in the targets of such satire as there is beyond the setting. Somewhere in the background, and signaled early, there's a point being made about self-invention and re-invention (this is, I think, what all the stuff about everybody's hair is all about), but it hardly deserves the name of cultural criticism. Further, the cartoonishness of the characterization distances us from the characters' predicaments, but they are not reduced to social or culturally recognizable types in a way that would enable us to say confidently that this or that aspect of the culture is being satirized.

So what's to like? The energy of the acting is engaging; De Niro's brief moment is gripping and well-paced; there's a great late 1970's soundtrack, and the '70's look is faithfully recreated -- but these alone didn't redeem the movie as a whole for me. So . . . it's OK, but a bit tiresome, I'm afraid.
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