Niagara Gazette

Night & Day

December 17, 2013

CALLERI: Hustlers compete with Disney at theaters


Niagara Gazette — They’re small-time crooks, but FBI agent Richie DiMaso (Bradley Cooper), wanting to move up the ladder, smells a big future after busting them. He delays their jail time if they will help him with his own sting. Bale, Adams, and Cooper are wonderful.

Nabbing the corrupt is the dream of the post-Watergate FBI. Richie forces Irv and Syd to be part of his attempt to nail shady politicians willing to accept bribes. Richie’s scam aims at snaring United States congressmen and some low-level New Jersey politicians, all of whom like the idea of earning extra (illegal) cash from influencing an upcoming plan to turn Atlantic City into an east coast gambling mecca. The scam includes wealthy Arab sheikhs and, of course, members of the Mob.

“American Hustle” is based on a true story. In 1978, the FBI did use a fake sheikh to entrap congressmen. The entrapment aspect generated its own sideshow. That sting was named “Abscam.” The film offers a title card that advises: “Some of this actually happened.”

Russell’s wickedly funny movie is occasionally ragged, and some of the editing can be called into question, but you don’t mind. Jennifer Lawrence earns special praise as Irving’s wife. The acting from all of the huge cast, which also includes Jeremy Renner, Louis C. K., Alessandro Nivola, and Jack Huston is delicious. Linus Sandgren’s cinematography enhances everyone’s sleazy nature. Disco and rock tunes abound.

Watching “American Hustle” is invigorating, and it gives you a jolt of pleasure. You’re elated to have seen it.

Walter Elias Disney was an avuncular Midwesterner, a dreamer who believed in happiness. The author of “Mary Poppins” was a phony Brit named P. L. Travers, who had the personality of a prune. She was really an Australian named Helen Goff who lived a hardscrabble existence with her drunken father (first name Travers), long-suffering mother, and pickle-faced aunt (possibly the true inspiration for Mary Poppins, the magical nanny).

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