Thursday, 2 January 2014
REVIEW: AMERICAN HUSTLE
Hustle & Go.
138 Minutes. Starring: Christian Bale, Amy Adams, Bradley Cooper, Jennifer Lawrence, Jeremy Renner, Michael Pena & Louis C.K. Director: David O. Russell.
The con is on. Now we don't need any convincing however with confidence that David O. Russell is one of the best working directors in the game today on top of his hustle. After his classic 'Three Kings' the past couple of years have seen him deal quite a pair and now with this hand he has something for the ages. The late 70's giving way to the 80's ages that is. As there's a lot of cans of hairspray and rollers between these comb-overs and perms giving some of Hollywood's best looking male and female, A-list pin-ups hairstyles as bad as this writers barnet (and yes the Bee Gee's are playing too, thank you). It's all part of the amazing aesthetic of this picture however from it's classic cars (an automobile extravaganza) to it's sublime soundtrack (from Zeppelin to Duke Ellington) that takes you back to the good old days when suits didn't fit you right and microwaves where the "science ovens" of the future. It's hustle plays like this that make Russell's latest gamble pay off. With the blockbuster Summer and fall season officially over in this New Year it's time for the more human Scorsese/DiCaprio 'Wolf Of Wall Street' type films to give more depth and darkness to the cold Winter and with some 'Casino' hallmarks here's another roll. From the safe suburbs of New Jersey to the blinding big city lights of New York City in it's defining decades this film is a rag to riches and all the way back again affair of money, sex and power all wrapped up in some of the most awful ties this side of your geography teachers wardrobe. If this and Batman and Hawkeye singing along to 'Delilah' by Tom Jones is your sort of bag then baby this is for you. As following the Oscar winning talents of 'The Fighter' and 'Silver Linings Playbook' Russell brings his third king to the Academy season pack with all his old friends on deck.
It doesn't matter if you're Ben Affleck, everybody wants to be Batman...and everybody wants Christian Bale in their movie, but boy has Bruce Wayne let himself go. After losing pounds and pounds of 'Machinist' style weight for 'The Fighter' and picking up Oscar gold in the process, Bale goes the opposite way of his fantastic fast and eats and eats like a 'Raging Bull' for this out of shape part that rounds out to some of the best (and probably gorging enjoyable) method-acting of his career complete with a hair-piece as well worked as his cons. The skinny on the man in the velvet suits and shaded, thick framed glasses is more than just the look of a 60's porn-star. It's one of a man still ahead of his time and crime with his sense in other peoples dollars. A veteran of this game with as much weary experience as wonderful skill this is Bale and his characters movie. No matter how many stars or wannabe hustlers try and outshine, he shines bright even if covered up by more hair and bifocals than 'Napoleon Dynamite'. Even with the depressing end of 'The Dark Knight' and some patterned baldness beneath that hung-up cowl it's great to have Bale back even if he does get his Jesus quotes classically confused. Strangely enough Batman needs his Lois Lane and fellow 'Fighter' co-star however as Mark Wahlberg's former boxing muse Amy Adams gives this film it's femme fatale in an amazing, at times accented Academy attracting performance. Quietly building herself quite the career filmography with last years biggest superhero film and now this one right out of the gates of 2014, fitting as perfectly as her old eighties dresses, this is a cocktail of style and substance that goes down smoother than Burgundy scotch. If anyone is keeping it classy here it's 'Anchorman' producer David O. The Ferrell season of mustaches, newsmen, Hobbit's and Cumberbatch's finally has some competition.
If that wasn't enough comic-book stars and friends of the director for you than we have more 'Guardians Of The Galaxy' and 'X-Men' for you in this superhero age. Bradley Cooper and Jennifer Lawrence made quite the Oscar nominated and winning team respectively for last years 'Silver Linings Playbook', where Russell took a classic book and turned the page on it and oft-ignored, put to the side problems of anxiety in society and turned it all into the sweetest love story. Now even with little screen time together arguably and with much nomination the sexiest man and woman in the world still look good between all the curling irons and cigarettes. We are yet to see just how 'Limitless' the talent of Bradley Cooper is from 'Hangover' to 'Wedding Crasher' douche bag comedies to the gold of a February reserved for the best of the best. Here with what looks like a bad fro and outfits only he could pull of today, Mr. GQ is more than just a cover boy. There's a lot of maddening conflict and slick overtones to a slimy under one on a cop that doesn't know if he's making it or faking it, let alone which side of the law he's on. It's an emotional ambivalence crafted in all it's anxieties and extremities perfectly by a man that showed us just how deep he cold take it with the silver linings of his last play book. Last year Cooper alongside fellow leading man of films and fan-girls Ryan Gosling gave us 2013's best film and performance in 'The Place Beyond The Pines', now with a similar feeling of rising to the top with an unsettling corruption the same may pay off here for the man of the moment. The only thing this actor is guilty of in real life however is playing conflicted characters with a DiCaprio depth over-looks conviction. Adding more sex and sass to all of this is Jennifer Lawrence, showing yet again that she has more behind those dominant 'Hunger Games' bow and arrows, 'X-Men' Mystique or even now her trophy room headed by this companies friend Oscar. At only 23 and able to look like shes married to Bale, this young actress has already done so much since 'The Winters Bone' early days beginnings. Most of all this recent Academy and attention activity is over a couple of years, give her decades and diverse films more and we may a young Streep on our hands with this streak.
Talk about people having a great couple of years and future if that wasn't enough we have an Avenger to Marvel at who is also taking over the 'Bourne' and 'Mission Impossible' franchises. The spies for the Academy Awards will have their eyes on their old pal from 'The Town' and 'The Hurt Locker' as Jeremy Renner puts on a big tie and an even bigger quiff as the do-good major of New Jersey. Possibly the only character here with a decent bone in his body, Renner is as real as he gets in some of his rawer films. Showing just how much range his Hawkeye bow has, he arrows another great role his Oscar marksman precision. He may just be the x-factor and the humanitarian-side saving grace of this picture as the odd one out with no previous experience with our director. On his own though he's leading the way and with his last couple of calenders filled up and crossed-out and 2015 looking to be re-Bourne with more franchise hits in the 'Age Of Ultron', Renner shows that even with all this and all them right now he's got it. The cheque-book extends for an even greater cast of characters from one of the best comedians going in Louis C.K., (his ice-fishing stories with Cooper and Bradley's own heckling of him make for this films stand-up moments) showing he has more behind the laughs to the ever hard-working and underrated Michael Pena showing he has more for his resume and the critics. There's also some classic gangsters off the Jersey 'Boardwalk Empire' and even more old friends and familiar faces from Russell's play book past including one classic cameo we would hate to ruin and love to have not had spoiled ourselves. That and it is just so right. All in all from some of the most taught tension to complex comedy this is a crime-caper of dark dramatic proportions that has real hustlers ambition. With a love triangle in an by-gone age now thought of that for squares it all shapes up and looks good even if below all the style and swagger it doesn't feel so good for the characters. It's simply a woven tapestry of how we all like to con ourselves and others to hide the substance that lies beneath the style, no matter how peculiar, identifying or even better it actually is. With this theme matching the terrific tone it's clear to see there's much more behind Russell and his fighting stars silver linings than just a simple, punch for punch play book hustle. Some of this as they say at the start is true. This is America in all it's entrapping dream for better or fake. TIM DAVID HARVEY.