Sunday, 2 February 2014
American Hustle (4 Stars)
I watched "American Hustle" in the cinema today. It's been in the cinemas a few weeks, so it was probably my last chance to see it. It's been nominated for 10 Oscars at this year's Academy Awards, including best film. 2014 seems to be a dull year for the Academy Awards. "American Hustle" is better than any of the other nominations, except possibly "Her", which I haven't yet seen. I doubt it will win the best film award though. The best film doesn't always win. Just look at "Argo" last year, which won the award for political reasons, although "The Life of Pi" was much better and everyone knew it. The Academy Awards are all about politics. My prediction this year is that "12 Years a Slave" will win, carried to victory by the white man's burden of guilt.
"American Hustle" is a cute but complex tale of love and deception in 1976. Irving Rosenfield is a small time conman working in New York City. Together with his partner, Sydney Prosser aka Edith Greensley, he is taking advantage of people in debt, because they are the ones desperate enough to believe in anything. He charges a non-refundable $5000 fee for getting them a loan, but of course he is never able to get them a loan. The FBI manages to bust his operation for fraud, but the ambitious young agent Richie DiMaso offers him a deal: if Irving can use his expertise to set up an operation that exposes four US politicians as corrupt he will drop the charges.
This is where the story gets complex. Carmine Polito, the Mayor of Camden, is trying to secure loans to rebuild Atlantic City after the recent legalisation of gambling. Irving is set up as a businessman to become Carmine's partner and bribe four US congressmen to give their assistance in the rebuilding project. But Irving doesn't trust Richie, so Sydney pretends to be in love with him to trick him. Irving becomes close friends with Carmine and begins to respect him when he realises that he's an honest man whose only wish is to serve the people, even if he sees bribes as an unfortunate necessity to help create new jobs in his city. Then the Mafia get involved in the deals, scaring Irving out of his mind. And did I forget to mention that Irving also has a wife who knows nothing of his dealings, even though she has her suspicions? As if this weren't enough, she falls in love with a Mafia boss. The chaos is complete.
This is a good film that I'll definitely watch again when I get a chance. Maybe I won't get so confused the second time round.