Synopsis: In the 1930s, three friends witness a murder, are framed for it, and uncover one of the most outrageous plots in American history.
Director: David O. Russell
Stars: Christian Bale, Margot Robbie, John David Washington, Chris Rock, Robert DeNiro
Of all the issues David O. Russell may come across in his filmmaking career, casting isn’t one of them. He has a plethora of riches when it comes to filling his canvas with talent. And if you’re an actor, why wouldn’t you want to work with him? Ask Christian Bale and Melissa Leo, Oscar winners for The Fighter, or Jennifer Lawrence, Oscar winner for Silver Linings Playbook, and while American Hustle didn’t win any Academy Awards, Amy Adams, Bradley Cooper, Christian Bale and Jennifer Lawrence all got nominated for their great performances. Simply put, Russell brings out the best in his acting talent.
In his latest film he has once again loaded the screen with familiar faces. Listen to this lineup, Christian Bale, Margot Robbie, John David Washington, Chris Rock, Robert DeNiro, Michael Shannon, Mike Myers, Timothy Olyphant, Rami Malek, Zoe Saldana, and some singer named Taylor Swift. Are you kidding me? I’m not used to seeing this many stars in one movie especially one movie that isn’t directed by Garry Marshall.
The film is set in the 1930’s where we meet Burt Berendsen (Bale). Burt is a former army vet and as a doctor he looks after former military, especially those who have been disfigured. He is doing what he can to help them with their injuries.
He reunites with his close friend Harold Woodman (Washington)who is a lawyer and they find out a former colleague has died. The colleague’s daughter, Liz (Taylor Swift) suspects foul play and wants them to do an autopsy on the body to see if something underhanded was involved. It isn’t long before Burt and Harold are being accused of a crime and now, they not only have to prove their innocence but also find out what happened to their friend.
Now having a big, star-studded cast is one thing but effectively using them is another. Russell, to his credit does a good job of not wasting the talent he has acquired for this film. In some ways I feel the baton was passed from Daniel Day-Lewis to Christian Bale. Not only is he known for his method acting but he just makes every performance seem effortless as he commits to his characters. John David Washington is developing his resume quite nicely and while I constantly feel like I am hearing his famous father when he talks, (it can’t just be me) his performances are very strong and it’s also impressive looking at the directors he has worked with. Christopher Nolan, Spike Lee and Reinaldo Marcus Green to name a few.
I also enjoyed Margot Robbie in this performance. The Academy Award nominee is great in this film, but I suspect as we drift towards award season it’s her performance in the upcoming Babylon which will be more talked about.
The supporting cast is solid and everyone brings something to the film.
The costume design and sets are elaborate and capture the time of the film.
Now Russell isn’t subtle regarding his commentary on how the US government treats military after their service. This isn’t the first film to do that and isn’t even the first film this year to take on that narrative. The film, which is two hours and fifteen minutes longs, does drag in parts of the third act.
The film was presented in IMAX, and you can add it to the long list of films that have a premium IMAX price but isn’t filmed in IMAX. (They keep doing it and I’ll keep calling it out)
Compared to his other films I would rank American Hustle as my favourite, but that’s a personal preference. This film drifts from film noir, which is a genre that I love, but doesn’t fully commit to it. It’s more drama than anything with a little film noir sprinkled in.
The movie also has a political commentary, which again, isn’t so subtle. I saw this in a theatre that had about six people, two of which I recognized as other reviewers. Point being people aren’t turning out for this one.
The movie is good but nothing you need to rush out to see, especially considering how quickly films head to digital these days.
If the film was a little shorter and a lot less preachy, I could strongly recommend it but alas it wasn’t.