American Hustle Screen 21 articles

American Hustle


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  • If acting was sold by the pound, the movie would be a big bargain-store crate. The frame is no less busy than the actors, and you’re always just around the corner from a significant-seeming dolly shot or the camera dropping to pick up a character’s gesticulating hands. It’s a shoo-in for Most Actor and Most Director buzz...

  • American Hustle is way too long at 132 minutes. The best caper movies are fleet on their feet, and Russell never works up quite enough velocity; the scenes where Richie butts heads with his put-upon boss (Louis C.K.) are a drag—and the running gag of having C.K.’s character always being interrupted in the middle of a supposedly resonant anecdote only heightens the feeling of spinning wheels. It doesn’t help that so many of the set pieces are clichés...

  • Watching this film is both frustrating and fascinating. I'm trying to read a pulse, and the film seems dead for 10 straight minutes, only to oddly erupt for a brief minute before returning to the grave. Nobody seems to be sure what they are doing here, and Russell rarely ever establishes stakes or exactly how any of the film's seemingly elaborate plot is supposed to work. But Russell is more interested in interaction, in the how people act in situations.

  • If (as oft-suggested) Russell's a frustrated screwball comedy director, his characters no longer need _reasons_ to justify executing such arcanely... stylized performances in the recognizable contemporary world. Everyone in American Hustle seems to be talking at the same speed and with the same level of misdirected energy: it's hard to avoid the sensation that you're watching an entire cast trying to exactly mimic a performance overbearingly modeled by their director.

  • The real problem is that Hustleis undernourished. The plot is a thin, loose-fitting thing with at least one big moment... that’s a total red herring. The film assaults you with energy, like a fast-talking salesman; it grabs the audience by the lapels and doesn’t let go – but it’s showy actors’ energy, and when it proclaims itself to be humane and empathetic I, for one, find myself resisting. It creates a facsimile of substance, then tries to pass it off as the real thing.

  • Coming off two instances of overwrought, artfully gritty Oscar bait, Russell responds with a similarly conceived spectacle that actually works, mostly because it plays its material toward farce rather than tragedy or uplift. Where The Fighter and Silver Linings Playbook used loaded issues of familial dysfunction and mental illness to establish rough-and-tumble bona fides which balanced out their pat conclusions, American Hustle only magnifies its initial disorder as it progresses...

  • By taking a break from being self-consciously earnest (Silver Linings Playbook), bare-knuckles gritty (The Fighter), and aggressively experimental (I Heart Huckabees), Russell has shaken something loose. You'd never credit him with a light touch, but American Hustle cruises along like a line of wedding guests doing the Electric Slide. Its plot mechanics are impossible to take seriously and yet deeply pleasurable to parse, right up to the who's-screwing-whom ending.

  • “American Hustle” is an exemplary work of storytelling, an activity with its aesthetic upper bound built in. For all its exuberant action and few authentic plot surprises, the movie lacks the dynamic principle, the sense that there are interstitial moments of practical planning and organization—the moments between the moments, the scenes between the scenes—in which the inner energies of the characters roil and recombine.

  • “Like me, she envisioned a better, more elegant version of herself.” The line doesn’t sink with thuddingly obvious irony but rather points to the movie’s greatest strength: Russell’s magnanimity toward his characters, an equable, never cloying embrace of their imperfections.

  • Russell is 55 now, and he doesn't seem out to prove anything. Dysfunction dominates American Hustle — sexual, conjugal, occupational, institutional, sartorial. Robert Altman's movies could get that way, strange and exhilaratingly sloppy; sometimes Billy Wilder's, too. Russell has matured into the messiness of this movie.

  • [Russell] applies a thin layer of Martin Scorsese to his usual anarchic mayhem. From the multiple-voiceover exposition to the relentlessly mobile camerawork (frequently booming from across the room into a tight close-up) to the needle-drop soundtrack that plays like a ’70s greatest-hits collection, American Hustle feels remarkably secondhand, though one could do worse than to mimic one of the very best in the business.

  • This is a long film, but its actions are no long con: for even if there is, as every con-artist film requires, a 'twist' ending, this is also expressly conceived only in the final act rather than planned right from the beginning, making the overall plot feel strangely loose and meandering. American Hustle is elevated by the great quality and chemistry of its performances...

  • It’s a feast of a movie—an uncorked entertainment in which every scene trembles with energy and actorly invention. Russell 2.0 is said to light his sets now in a way that allows the actors virtually 360 degrees of movement... and whether it’s that or simply the movie’s wholesale celebration of the art of performance, the actors inHustle seem looser, freer, and more willing to take risks than they ever have before.

  • Does American Hustle have heart—does it have importance? Such naive questions: It has Jennifer Lawrence blowing up a microwave. When Hollywood is made to go blazingly fast like this, it’s a felony to complain.

  • American Hustle turns out to be a freewheeling party of a movie, one that never stops adding complications and wrinkles and hungry new players to the mix.

  • ...David O. Russell, more than any other contemporary American filmmaker, has reinvigorated screwball comedy, partly by insisting that men and women talk to one another. To that end, that chatter, written by Mr. Russell and Eric Warren Singer, is fast, dirty, intemperate, hilarious and largely in service to the art of the con, specifically the Abscam scandal that almost incidentally inspired the story.

  • “American Hustle” feels like the fulfillment of [Russell's] comeback, a work of tremendous confidence and dazzling showmanship that may just be a delirious movie-as-drug-high or may, if you choose to read it this way, contain a level of commentary about the nature of America and the illusioneering of Hollywood.

  • Like the Abscam con, the film is a convincing confection, so well played that we don’t care if it’s the real deal or not. If it’s not a masterwork, it’s a classy copy, ranking with the luminous sham-Rembrandt that Irv praises above a legitimate one, because “the guy who made this was so good that it is real to everybody”.

  • Here is a movie about conmen without a single bad guy. A movie about corruption without a trace of cynicism. It has a convoluted plot yet it's written and directed by David O. Russell, who doesn't care about plot. It's the same story Russell told twice before, with the same general actors playing the same general characters in the same general way but cast against type this time. Six actors return from Silver Linings Playbook, four from The Fighter.

  • American Hustle slides with such grace through its intrigues, slipping in so many diverting props and devices and walk-ons that you may start to feel you’re being hustled by the film itself... It’s the classic con man’s tactic: keep talking and keep changing the subject whenever necessary, and make sure the mark can never quite put all the pieces together. If so, it’s a hustle of the pleasant sort that can be savored even while you know you’re being conned.

  • American Hustle is a riotously fun romp, but it's also an incredibly sincere portrayal of the voracious culture of want which isn't just about money and the acquisition of things but also the desire for love. So many people in this movie hold onto romantic ideals. They are caught between what they want inside versus what they want outside.

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