An Analysis of “American Hustle”


 “I wouldn’t say I loved American Hustle, but it is truly a film masterpiece.”


The cute rhyme in saying David O. Russell’s American Hustle is just about the only cute thing about this movie. American Hustle gets down to business and leaves nothing out of the story. You get everything and it is a lot to take in. This movie has an extremely inflated plot and its NOT for everyone. Despite the 92% that this movie has received on rotten tomatoes, not everyone will appraise this movie with such high esteem. The movie is coarse and risqué and not your everyday family movie. Now that I’ve made it clear that this movie can be inappropriate in many ways I will begin the review. Interestingly, American Hustle is nominated for best comedy at the Golden Globes this year. If it wasn’t for its nomination, I would have never noticed it was a comedy. Nonetheless, it is funny, just not laugh out loud hilarious. I expected it to be much more in the style of an Oceans movie where the script is entirely well written witty one-liners. In my opinion American Hustle was a Drama that couldn’t decide if it wanted to be comedy. It stayed on the fence and remained a drama. The acting and music are fantastic. Bale and Adams work well together as they did in David O. Russell’s film The Fighter, but in my mind and in many other film critic’s minds, Bradley Cooper takes the cake and is worthy of an Oscar Nomination. Jeremy Renner, an often underlooked character, also plays well in this film. Jennifer Lawrence on the other hand was not my favorite. Lawrence tries to steal a show that isn’t hers to steal. This results in overacting and it almost becomes a distraction to the viewers. Lawrence plays an obnoxious wife who isn’t likeable, even to her audience. Also seeing Katniss Everdeen be romantic with Bruce Wayne is kind of disgusting. I also took into consideration that Lawrence is 23 years of age and Bale is 39. Just knowing that grossed me out slightly. In my opinion Lawrence’s character was important to the plot but did not deserve the amount of screen time she received. In the end American Hustle is a two and a half hour inflated love hexagon in an amplified crime development. The movie’s lack of laughs and overload on sex and infidelity, though important to the plot, bothered me. For these reasons my verdict lies at 4 stars out of 5. You may be thinking that 4 stars is a high mark after reading the review I just gave the movie. The truth is that American Hustle is a masterpiece and everything good about this film is earned in the ending. To hear why I think American Hustle is so brilliant, read my analysis below. Be careful if you haven’t seen the movie yet, the analysis contains spoilers.

Verdict: 4 Stars
“I wouldn’t say I loved American Hustle, but it is truly a film masterpiece.”

Analysis: For those who have seen American Hustle
Be careful before proceeding, this analysis contains spoilers.

Aside from Amy Adams consistent cleavage and Christian Bale’s fat belly, the movie American Hustle has some golden moments. The beginning of the film starts with Irving Rosenfeld (Christian Bale) and Sydney Prosser (Amy Adams). Rosenfeld is this con artist mastermind and one of his keys to clientele manipulation is to deny them their request so much that they become desperate without even knowing it. Just say ‘no’ Rosenfeld says and they will come running sooner or later. This theme is truly brilliant as it is visible in so many parts of the film. Sydney Prosser uses this trick to lure in many clients, including Richie DiMaso, an FBI agent. The office scene between the three characters in my mind is brilliant. We see Rosenfelds great conning plan backfire, not on Irving but on Sydney. DiMaso demands that they take his investment. Sydney is sold hook line and sinker. She wants his money, but when Irving says that he won’t do business with DiMaso, Sydney is shocked. Once he says no, her greed kicks in and takes DiMaso’s money. In taking the money Sydney commits an act of fraud and is taken by the FBI. In the same way that Sydney says no to her clients, Irving said no to Sydney and she did exactly what the clients do, they keep coming back for more. In her case she drowned her judgement in greed and pays the price for it.

Later in the film we see this theme in DiMaso’s interaction with his supervisor at the FBI. DiMaso consistently begs for a bigger budget to continue his grand scheme in catching fraudulent congressmen and mobsters but very often his boss denies his requests. Like the film suggests, the more you hear the word ‘no’ the more desperate you become to ascertain this thing that you long for. DiMaso does get most everything that he asks for eventually and brilliantly Irving Rosenfeld, who is now working along side with DiMaso, says “Now you’re getting a little power drunk Richie,” this fantastic foreshadow eventually leads to DiMaso’s fall as the con men he works with ultimately con him.

The movie starts to conclude with a very similar scene to the one it nearly begins with. DiMaso, Rosenfeld, and Prosser gather in an Attorney’s office to do a business deal with Tellegio, a crook from Miami (they do this in hopes of catching him in the act of fraud). When they arrive Tellegio, played by Robert De Niro (interestingly a cameo from another David O. Russel film Silver Linings Playbook), wasn’t present. The attorney provides the account number to send the money, and what the attorney says enough for the FBI to nab Tellegio. This moment is when David O. Russell’s touch turns this movie into gold. DiMaso takes advantage of this opputunity but Irving Rosenfeld approaches him and tries to convince him not to send the money and tell him that they don’t do business this way. DiMaso doesn’t like hearing the word ‘no’ as he has gotten what he wants during the entire movie. Once again in the same way that Sydney Prosser took DiMaso’s investment at the start of the movie and didn’t listen to Irvings quiet ‘no’, DiMaso wires the money (unknowingly wiring the money directly to Irving Rosenfeld). This action proves DiMaso truly is “power drunk” and it ultimatley leads to his corruption and downfall as he is taken from the case and is totally fooled by Rosenfeld. This fantastic recurring theme gives Hustle its kicker ending and gives it almost a literary feel to the movie. I loved the ending and in my opinion it is what makes the movie.

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4 thoughts on “An Analysis of “American Hustle”

  1. Good review Riley. It may feel more and more like a Scorsese flick, but that’s less of a problem and more of a compliment, as it’s always a bunch of fun to watch.

  2. Hey man, this was a great read! I agree with everything you say, and it’s gratifying to see we had similar thoughts on the film, even if yours is a lot more detailed than mine! 🙂

    I’m really surprised that this is being nominated for a Comedy… seems like no one knew what they wanted it to be.

    Reading this actually made me want to go and see it again, because I feel like I missed Bradley Cooper’s excellence or Jennifer Lawrence’s overwork. I’m not sure I will, because two hours is a long time to do something again that you didn’t exactly love in the first place, but thanks for making me think!

    • Thank you for reading! I too would like to see the movie again for similar reasons. The movie was so long but at the same time, by the time the movie ended I felt like I had missed so much. Thanks again for reaching out!

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