Niagara Gazette

Night & Day

December 17, 2013

CALLERI: Hustlers compete with Disney at theaters

Niagara Gazette — “American Hustle” and “Saving Mr. Banks” couldn’t be more different from each other. The former is a whiz-bang of a movie, a madcap exploration of the corruption that roils the goodness in which many believe. The latter is a mellow fable that looks at a two people, a man who wants everyone to share his vision of simplicity and sweetness, and the woman who rejects his viewpoint.

Director David O. Russell, who co-wrote the screenplay for “American Hustle” with Eric Singer, channels two great filmmakers, 1940’s comedy master Preston Sturges, and none other than Martin Scorsese, especially Scorsese’s “Goodfellas.” Like Sturges, Russell revels here in off-beat characters and loopy situations. And although his “American Hustle” rejects the violence that Scorsese brought to the amphetamine-fueled “Goodfellas,” Russell does replicate the narrative technique, whiplash editing, and good guys as lovable lugs sensibility.

The colorful film, set in the era of disco and decline, is about con artists and hucksterism. It succeeds so well that you believe its fast-talking, larceny-in-their-hearts thieves could get the Boy Scouts to offer a merit badge in pickpocketing.

Christian Bale, fat of belly and manipulating a toupee on the top of his head like an artist at work (don’t miss the start of the picture), plays Irving Rosenfeld, an owner of a chain of dry cleaners in New York City. He runs a con taking $5000 from fools in exchange for a $50,000 loan that never materializes.

At a swimming pool party on Long Island, Irving meets Sydney Prosser (Amy Adams), a sexy, larcenous American, who will pretend she’s British if that’s what you desire. Irving and Sydney bond over Duke Ellington music. Although Rosenfeld is married with an adopted son, he strikes up a sexual relationship with Sydney and works with her on fleecing the dumb and dumber.

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