American Hustle (2013) – Movie Review

This may be a case where heightened expectations play a factor, but I found American Hustle disappointing. The narrative feels kind of obtuse/unfocused/sloppy…pick a word. It just seems disoriented, and not in a deliberate, effective way. So a lot of flash and interesting shots, but not a very sharp-feeling overall effect.

The Good – Christian Bale. Amy Adams. Christian Bale. Nice 70s aesthetic in the look, feel and sound of the film. Christian Bale. This is the first time that I have truly enjoyed Jeremy Renner in a film (I still do not buy into the “star hype” with him, but this is a good, affecting performance). The humor, while spotty, comes through very well here and there. Did I mention that Christian Bale is superb in this? Man.

The Not So Good – The combination of directing, writing, scoring and editing muddies the narrative unnecessarily. This film could have been better if those aforementioned things had been conducted more sharply and cohesively in concert with each other. But hey, maybe the way it is is absolutely intentional on David Russell’s part. If so, then it is just not to my tastes. I found Bradley Cooper’s character to be unremarkable and lacking in genuine punch, and Jennifer Lawrence’s performance to be awkward and unconvincing for the most part.

The Takeaway – This film is okay. But the trailer had me expecting something dazzling, something great. Make no mistake, there is some serious spark from Bale and Adams, and a heavy dose of 70s aesthetic. But more than anything else, this is a lesson in how you cannot always trust the hype machine to deliver on its buildup (or other reviewers, for that matter).

6 out of 10 stars

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