Inspired by the FBI’s Abscam operation of the late ’70s, American Hustle (2013), according to its own announcement after the credits, “is a work of fiction.” It is unconcerned with historical re-creation. Too, for all the focus on corruption, it is not a work of moral import, but it does do a good job of demonstrating that in life there is comedy even where there is crime: specifically, fraud. And even where there is a painful love triangle. This triangle involves two con artists (Christian Bale and Amy Adams) and the FBI agent (Bradley Cooper) who offers them impunity if they will help engineer four big-time arrests.
The characters are fun—and, better, fascinating—in this mercurial David O. Russell film as gratifyingly commercial as Russell’s previous pic, Silver Linings Playbook. Direction and editing here make for an outstandingly constructed product, and the main actors are either commandingly “natural” (Adams and Bale, in that order) or passionately credible (e.g. Jennifer Lawrence).
It may be Russell’s best movie to date. It ain’t perfect, it ain’t profound, but . . . it’s riveting. And it’s eccentric in that the women look sexy and the men, by virtue of the ’70s, look laughable.