Everyone loves a comedy ‘tache. So the moment a virtually unrecognisable Christian Bale swaggers onscreen with paunch, comb-over and luxuriant hairy slug atop his lip, you know American Hustle is onto a winner.
A fictionalisation of true events, American Hustle is based loosely around the ABSCAM scandal of the late 70’s and early 80’s. Involving corruption at the highest levels, it saw members of Congress convicted of accepting bribes in return for political favours.
Our players in this version are con-artist Irving Rosenfeld (Christian Bale) and his foxily glamorous partner in crime, Sydney Prosser (Amy Adams). Kindred spirits, their initial business relationship expands into a romantic affair, ignited when they discover a shared talent for hustling money. Unfortunately, their illicit trade attracts the attention of FBI agent Richie DiMaso (Bradley Cooper resplendent in tight poodle curls). Richie realises they are the tool he needs to crack a nut of corruption involving casino mob boss Victor Tellegio (Robert De Niro) and political fixer Carmine Polito (Jeremy Renner). And with Irving’s neurotic, unpredictable wife Rosalyn (Jennifer Lawrence) still lurking in the background, you have an explosive potboiler waiting to happen.
Cleverly, it doesn’t take itself too seriously. Yes, it has ‘1970’s Scorsese Mobster Epic’ written all over it, but the tone is tongue-in-cheek homage, not reverential reconstruction. Mr Cooper busts impressively snake hipped moves on a dance floor, winking slyly to Saturday Night Fever. Amy Adams is a Studio 54-esq diva, adopting a faux British accent to impress the naive Yanks and wearing slashed to the naval frocks for breakfast, while Mr Bale’s corpulent belly undertakes a surprise bid for Best Supporting Actor, with copious screen time all to itself (NB The Sloth has it on good authority the notoriously rigorous Mr Bale prepped thoroughly for his role by, erm, eating all the pies. No prosthetics involved, that belly is the genuine article).
Fun, raucous and with just the right amount of 70’s cheese, American Hustle pens a frothy ode to an era of excess, where money, big hair and shiny fabrics talked. Get in the mood with a Screwdriver and blast of Stayin’ Alive, then enjoy.
UK limited release 20 December. General release 3 January.