Review: ‘American Hustle’ (M) ****

EVERY comedy category at this year’s Golden Globe awards includes a nomination from David O Russell’s film about venality, corruption, ambition and emotional mayhem.

Awards for being best in any category of creative endeavour are always suspect but nomination to compete for them does carry a measure of credible cachet. And the merit of nominations linked to “American Hustle” is undeniable.

In a tantalising foretaste following the introductory iconography, a title says that some of its events may be true. Underlying its loosely based-on-fact telling of the Abscam scandal from the late 1970s is an FBI sting the against Congressmen and a senator involved in subverting US law to get Arab funding for a New Jersey gambling complex.

While the rest may be fictive, Russell’s screenplay gives very entertaining fiction.

Christian Bale plays Irving, a low-grade con-man with overweening self esteem. Married to Rosalyn (Jennifer Lawrence) but not working hard at it, he’s recently done his nut for Sydney (Amy Adams) who’s worked her way up from being no better a girl than she might be to a force to be reckoned with. Her wardrobe shows plenty of bosom, which in a male society is a surefire way to make an impact.

Bradley Cooper plays FBI agent Richie, desperate for professional improvement by exposing the corruption, often his own worst professional enemy, to the film’s benefit. His channel to the big political targets is Mayor Polito (Jeremy Reiner) who for his genuine devotion to his constituency is more to be pitied than blamed.

In an uncredited cameo, Robert de Niro plays a truly malevolent Mafioso whose talents lie in manipulating the applicable laws.

“American Hustle” takes a while to reveal its anticipations. The tensions do it faster. It has breathtaking passages of acting virtuosity, especially when Sydney and Rosalyn let fly at each other.

There’s plenty of humour, but to classify it as comedy for Golden Globe nomination seems to miss the target. Sure, it has deliciously subtle comic passages, but its principal elements are indeed serious. Its 138 minutes constitute entertainment time well spent.

At all cinemas

 

 

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