Tuesday, January 7, 2014
Film Review: American Hustle (2013)
It's difficult to pick out the worst aspect of this film, but I think I'll put my money on the characters. The five main characters are resolutely dull, witless and shallow. The same could be said about a lot of the characters in Boogie Nights, another Seventies-themed film, but the huge difference is that the latter film actually likes and respects its characters, and works to make us feel the same way. Russell has no respect for his characters. He's laughing at them and wants us join in on the laughter by making them look and sound as ridiculous as possible. Bad hair! Wide lapels! Disco! Oh, the horror and hilarity! Every character, with the possible exception of Jeremy Renner's, is in the film to be mocked. Their ambitions, their beliefs, their lifestyles, everything about them is either sneered at or openly ridiculed. And yet this isn't a comedy. I saw it in a crowded cinema and you could have heard a pin drop throughout; no laughs, no giggles, maybe a few chuckles here and there. You really have to wonder what Russell's purpose was in making this film because its entertainment value is zero.
The plot is a shambolic retelling of the Abscam scandal, but most of the script is taken up with the dreary personal relationships and romantic entanglements of the main characters. This is where the acting might have saved the film, but, alas, not this time. There's some seriously bad acting going on here. Bradley Cooper and Amy Adams seem to think they're appearing in a telenovela, and Christian Bale casts a soporific pall over the film with his thick, chewy Bronx accent and sluggish...line...readings. Jennifer Lawrence emerges with her honour intact despite being lumbered with some of the worst dialogue, and Robert De Niro appears briefly to show everyone what a real pro can do. Unfortunately for Russell, De Niro's presence only reminds us that American Hustle is basically a ripoff of Goodfellas. In fact, if I was Martin Scorsese I'd be suing for plagiarism. Or maybe not. I wouldn't want people thinking that anything this bad could have been inspired by my film.