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American Hustle (2013)


American Hustle Poster

American Hustle (2013)

Back in August of 2013, when I first heard about American Hustle, this was my viewpoint on it:

David O. Russell has taken 3 stars from his film Silver Linings Playbook (2012) and 2 stars from his film The Fighter (2010), and brought all 5 of them together to make a movie.  If The Fighter and Silver Linings Playbook had a baby, it would be named American Hustle.

Not only is this film a guaranteed Oscar contender, but it will likely be amazing.

I have been excited about seeing American Hustle ever since.

American Hustle Cooper Adams Bale

What do you get when you cross two conniving con artists, a crazy FBI agent, corrupt politicians and the mob?  The answer, American Hustle.  Irving Rosenfeld (Christian Bale) and his girlfriend Sydney Prosser (Amy Adams) have developed an excellent partnership of swindling desperate people out of their money.  Everything is going great until one day, a power hungry FBI agent (Bradley Cooper) catches the couple in his web.  In order to keep from going to prison, Irving and Sydney are forced to work with the FBI to try to help bring down other criminals.  One thing leads to another and they find themselves butting heads with the mafia.  The beauty of it all is that you can’t tell who is conning who.

The rest of the noteworthy cast includes Jeremy Renner, Jennifer Lawrence, Michael Pena, Alessandro Nivola, Louis C.K., Jack Huston, Robert De Niro, and Paul Herman.

I have to say that I loved the trailer for this movie.  It tells you what the movie is about without telling you much about the movie at all.  They leave a lot to the imagination.  It was refreshing.  You get excited to see the movie because of the cast of characters and how they are acting, but you are dying to know what the movie is really about.  In this day and age, this is a risky concept because there are multiple movies out there that appear like they are about nothing because their trailer does not tell you much, and when you go to watch them they are pointless.  Their secrecy sucks you in, but in reality they weren’t keeping a secret.  They just really suck and you just wasted your time.  American Hustle is not like that, at all.  There is far more to this film than the trailer leads you to believe.

I did not expect there to be as much humor as there was.  The movie was laugh-out-loud hilarious.  It was very smart, well thought out dark humor.

American Hustle Cooper Bale

The film oozed with elegance.  Everything about the movie seemed classy.  It was clean and crisp.  The colors were so clear and bright.  From a filmmaking aspect alone, the movie was perfection.  Picture that, but then throw in some of the best actors in the business into a flawlessly put together movie.

So, now you have a diamond of a movie with a cast that is worth its weight in gold.  What do you get now?  Fireworks.  American Hustle recreates the 70s believably and the soundtrack is there to prove it.  The actors play the game like the all-stars that they are.  The chemistry was electrifying between everybody.  The actors kept one-upping each other.

Chistian Bale, with a porky belly and the cheapest comb over imaginable stood out among the rest.  His performance was not surprising, but it was every bit as good as anything he has ever done before.  His performance was not surprising because he has been acting at such a high level for such a long time, that it’s hard to expect anything less out of him.  His acting was power and precision.  For a long time now, Johnny Depp has been my favorite actor and Bale has been my second favorite.  I think Bale just surpassed Depp.  Dare I say, lately he is more consistently in better movies.  Bale is capable of almost any role and he proves it time and time again.  I have not seen all of the movies that are up for Academy Awards, but as of right now, Bale gets my vote for Best Actor, and he should be competing against himself for Out of the Furnace (2013)(that movie was snubbed), as well.

American Hustle Adams Bale

Speaking of Academy Awards, Amy Adams.  She was absolutely wonderful in American Hustle.  She was stylish and sophisticated.  Instead of being dressed down, like she was in The Fighter, her beauty was really able to shine through to her core.  She played a woman who was always in control and it was the best performance by an actress that I have seen since perhaps, Hilary Swank in the film Million Dollar Baby (2004).  It certainly was Amy’s best film that I have seen to date.  It was even better than her performance in The Fighter.

Bradley Cooper had more curlers in his hair than Amy Adams.  He pulled it off though and it was funny.  He brought a level of insanity to his role in American Hustle that showed similarities to Silver Linings Playbook.  He was allowed his moments to shine, but you could tell he was along for the ride in the back seat behind Bale.  Amy Adams was riding shotgun and Jennifer Lawrence was in the back seat behind her, sitting next to Cooper.

Jennifer Lawrence seemed to pick up right where she left off in Silver Linings Playbook.  She was the broken housewife with an attitude and an appetite for wreaking havoc and turmoil.  I thought she played the part about as well as she did in Silver Linings Playbook.

American Hustle Lawrence

David O. Russell has come a long way since Flirting With Disaster (1996) and I Heart Huckabees (2004).  He took a page right out of Martin Scorsese’s book by having multiple narrators in American Hustle.  The movie actually was very Scorsese-esque.  Russell’s last three films have all been Oscar contenders and American Hustle is as deserving of an Oscar as either of the other two.  My only concern is that this movie gets screwed out of the Academy Awards that it rightfully deserves for the sake of diversity.

This film was like the acting all-star game of 2013.

I rate this movie a 10 on a scale of 1-10.

Buy, rent, or run?  Buy.

Note: I usually do not rate a movie a 10 after the first showing, but I could not find anything wrong with this movie.  I thought that it might drag on a little bit because of the 138 minutes running time, but it didn’t.  It was just an exercise in excellence.  I am often reluctant to give a movie a 10 rating right away because I think that it should prove the test of time.  I think this one already did.

If you liked American Hustle, then you will most likely enjoy the following films:

Silver Linings Playbook (2012)

Out of the Furnace (2013)

The Machinist (2004)

The Place Beyond the Pines (2012)

Prisoners (2013)

Broken City (2013)

The Counselor (2013)

Miller’s Crossing (1990)

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Miller’s Crossing (1990)


Miller's Crossing Poster

Miller’s Crossing (1990)

 

The Coen brothers (Joel Coen and Ethan Coen) really started to get noticed after writing and directing Fargo (1996).  The popularity of the indie writers and directors continued to increase with each movie that they made together.  However, when most people look back on the Coen brothers’ career as filmmakers, they usually don’t look further back than FargoMiller’s Crossing seems to fall between the cracks.

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I was 4 years old when this movie was released, but I watched it for the first time when I was 13 years old.  It was the first Coen brothers’ movie that I had seen and it was the beginning of a new friendship.

Miller’s Crossing is a gangster film about Tom Regan (Gabriel Byrne), a heavy gambler and trusted confidant to two rival mob bosses during the 1920s.  Regan finds himself caught in the middle of a power struggle and all out gangland war while trying to manipulate both sides against each other.

The movie was written and directed by Joel and Ethan Coen and the rest of the noteworthy cast includes Albert Finney, Jon Polito, John Turturro, Marcia Gay Harden, Steve Buscemi, J.E. Freeman, Mike Starr, Olek Krupa, and Michael Jeter.

Miller's Crossing Finney Tommy Gun

The film is an excellent homage to the James Cagney and Humphrey Bogart gangster movies of old.  The writing and directing is flawless.  The Coen brothers resurrected the 1920s gangster era all the way down to the soda bottles, pocket watches, fedora hats, tommy guns, rotary phones, pinky rings, dirty coppers, smoking jackets, robes, stogies, custom three piece suits, and of course, the model T.  The costumes and set designs were perfect.

Miller's Crossing Polito

The movie has an R rating, but I don’t think that rating would live up to today’s standards.  There is hardly any swearing, and the sex is insinuated.  There is violence, but it is not extremely graphic.  One scene shows a girl topless, but she is wearing nipple tassels.  As far as I’m concerned, that’s frontal side-boob.  I don’t think that alone is enough to garner an R rating.  In other words, the movie is basically PG-13.

Miller's Crossing Byrne Harden

My oldest brother once pointed out to me how the Coen brothers love having big guys sitting behind desks arguing or yelling at people sitting across from them.  He was right.  Watch almost any Coen brothers’ movie and you will get just that.  I think the reason behind this is that usually the dialogue in their movies is so very well-written.  An office setting is a good place to get the point across.  People tend to pay more attention to you if you are behind a podium or desk, especially if you are yelling or arguing a point.  Just look at Barack Obama, or Hitler.  Don’t get me wrong, both men are opposites, but both men could definitely deliver a speech.  As bad as Hitler was, people eat up what he said like it was candy.  They did the same for Obama.  Well thought out dialogue delivered to an audience with explosive vigor while standing behind a podium or desk is enough to get people to listen.  It certainly has worked for the Coen brothers and Miller’s Crossing is a classic example of that.

The Coen brothers were lucky enough early on to be able to get great actors to act in their movies.  This is harder to do for independent filmmakers.  Miller’s Crossing is one of my favorite Gabriel Byrne films.  He gives a slick performance and it must have been contagious because in my opinion, this is Albert Finney’s best movie.  Marcia Gay Harden easily transforms into a 1920s dame and does a likable job.  This is the first movie that I really liked John Turturro in.  Jon Polito gives his best performance channeling the likes of Edward G. Robinson.  Steve Buscemi spits his dialogue like a pro.  It was as if J.E. Freeman was plucked right out of a 1920s gangster movie.  He played his role that well.  These actors have all worn many different hats.  This one fit them all like it was tailor made just for them.

Miller's Crossing Hat

Like fine wine, Miller’s Crossing gets better with age.  If you are a Coen brothers fan already, you will most likely enjoy this movie.  It is one of my favorite Coen brothers’ movies.  It’s a classy gangster film.

I rate this movie a 9 on a scale of 1-10.

Buy, rent, or run?  Buy.

Happy Birthday to Albert Finney


Albert Finney

Happy Birthday to Albert Finney!  He turns 77 today.

Finney is an excellent character actor who started out making TV movies in the 50’s and has had many wonderful supporting roles in his career as an actor.  My favorite Finney films are Miller’s Crossing (1990), Big Fish (2003), and most recently Skyfall (2012).

Albert Finney Miller's Crossing