American Hustle

By Kai-Arne Zimny

“As far as I could see, peo­ple were always con­ning each oth­er to get what they want­ed. We even con our­selves. We talk our­selves into things. We sell our­selves things we maybe don’t even need or want by dress­ing them up. We leave out the risk. We leave out the ugly truth.”  — Irv­ing Rosen­feld (Chris­t­ian Bale)

Pho­to Cred­it: Wolg Gang

New Jer­sey, late 70s – Fraud­u­lent duo Irv­ing Rosen­feld (Chris­t­ian Bale) and Syd­ney Pross­er aka “Lady Edith Greensly” (Amy Adams) get caught in the act by FBI agent Richie DiMa­so (Bradley Coop­er). Smelling an oppor­tu­ni­ty for fame and recog­ni­tion, the agent decides to offer the crooked cou­ple a dis­hon­est deal that would force them to gath­er incrim­i­nat­ing evi­dence against four oth­er peo­ple. To avoid pros­e­cu­tion, Irv­ing and Syd­ney agree, not know­ing the object of the FBI’s inves­ti­ga­tion: sev­er­al cor­rupt con­gress­men, ruth­less mafia boss Vic­tor Tel­le­gio (Robert DeNiro), and most spec­tac­u­lar­ly Camden’s pop­u­lar and big-heart­ed may­or Carmine Poli­to (Jere­my Ren­ner). Polito’s ambi­tion to cre­ate jobs by revi­tal­iz­ing Atlantic City’s casi­nos might make him sus­cep­ti­ble to bribes by a fake Sau­di sheik. A game of deceit and con­flict ensues, not mak­ing Irving’s per­son­al dilem­mas – evolv­ing around his unpre­dictable wife (Jen­nifer Lawrence) and his beloved adop­tive son – any easier …

“Some of this actu­al­ly hap­pened” accord­ing to the film’s begin­ning. Indeed, the plot of Amer­i­can Hus­tle (2013) is loose­ly based on a late ‘70s/early ‘80s FBI sting oper­a­tion code-named “Abscam,” short for “Arab scam.”

All the names of the real peo­ple involved have been fic­tion­al­ized, and much has been ampli­fied to fit the big screen. What results is an enter­tain­ing, dri­ving crime dra­ma that goes beyond the obvi­ous plot, invit­ing the audi­ence to pon­der ques­tions like: When is a crime actu­al­ly a crime? What is a ‘good’ cause? What dri­ves and moti­vates peo­ple to use very sim­i­lar means to very dif­fer­ent ends? The most­ly over-the-top char­ac­ters add a few dash­es of black com­e­dy, but their idio­syn­crasies are believ­able, so they don’t come at the cost of cred­i­bil­i­ty. Spe­cial praise goes to the film’s end­ing which you don’t see com­ing and might just make you feel like you’ve been conned, too.

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