David Russell lent heavily from Martin Scorsese’s best crime dramas to make American Hustle. The narratives, music and editing are an almost direct homage to Scorsese’s 90’s work particularly Casino. Even De Niro makes a key entrance wearing the same ginormous glasses he did in Casino. Borrowing and injecting material from popular culture is not new to David Russell’s work. In Silver Linings Playbook his script is soaked with banter about popular books, classic literature, blatant marketing of iPods and musings about ‘cool’ music. Silver appeared almost in part a satire or social commentary about materialism and consumer obsession.
American Hustle like Silver demonstrates Russell’s passion for heightening the senses regarding materialism and social trends. Its perverse saturation of 1970’s references to reinforce the era it is set borders on the satirical. We are barraged with the cliched 1970’s music, John Travolta’s dancing, the uncanny focus on men and women’s hair styles, cleavage, drugs, money, quirkiness and the list goes on. But how much of it feels authentic? I’ll give him his due because he did add Goodbye Yellow Brick Road, but I was unable to ascertain how it related to what I was watching.
After much ham-fisting the movie eventually finds its own two feet. Unlike Silver Linings which leads to a squeamish Strictly Ballroom sequence, American Hustle does have some great plot twists worth waiting for. It becomes its own beast as it were. Christian Bale as always is exceptional and the sassy Amy Adams is stellar. There are a lot of comical undertones. They apparently did lots of improvisation which undoubtedly enhanced its spontaneous appeal. I admired Russell’s The Fighter because of it’s authenticity and sincerity, but I detested Silver Linings Playbook for being the exact opposite. American Hustle seems to breach the two.
1. Review: American Hustle
2. ‘American Hustle’ and ‘Wolf of Wall Street’ come late to the Oscar party (latimes.com)
3. ‘American Hustle’ glamorizes the schemers and dreamers (themorningsun.com)