Monday, March 24, 2014

Flowers, but with garbage.

I'm a terrible person. At least as far as the blogging community goes, I assume. I almost never read anybody else's work. Seriously. It is not because I don't want to (or am uninterested), it's that I'm late to everything. I'm so worried I'm going to inadvertently lift something from someone, I stay the Hell away entirely. Inspiration (and homage) is one thing, plagiarism is another.

It's not stolen, and likely not even a tribute, but David O. Russell's Oscar-nominated American Hustle feels a lot like a Martin Scorsese film. Well, Scorsese-lite, anyway. Perhaps Scorsese has inadvertently cornered the market on ensemble epics loaded with seedy wiseguys and double and triple crosses, or perhaps Russell has seen Goodfellas more times than he can remember. Either way, I simply couldn't shake the notion that this was a new-school attempt at a Scorsese flick. And while that's not the worst thing in the world by any stretch, it's kind of tough to swallow when the master is not only still alive, but arguably at the top of his game [review].

Anyway, the mostly (partly?) true story begins with a couple of small-time con artists fleecing some scumbags for five grand at a time. This duo, Irving (a fantastically lovable Christian Bale) and Sydney (a solid and super-hot Amy Adams), are living the dream when they unknowingly run their game on Richie, an undercover federal agent. Richie (an amusing Bradley Cooper), sensing Irving's feelings for Sydney, forces the master con man to work for him in exchange for the girl's release. The deal? They get him four larger busts and all will be forgiven. Shouldn't be too hard, right? Well...about that...

Placing con-artists in a position of power was probably mistake number one, but the real problem for the entire operation is Irving's wife, Rosalyn (Jennifer Lawrence, slightly in over her head, perhaps?) and to a lesser extent, her young son Danny. Potentially unstable, but definitely a bitch, Rosalyn routinely f--ks things up in dramatic fashion. While the simple solution would be to cut her loose, Irving loves her son. So much so, he's even adopted the little goofball.

Also complicating matters, is Irving's intense loyalty to the linchpin of the entire operation, Mayor Carmine Polito (a seemingly out-of-place Jeremy Renner). Carmine walks out of the initial shady business meeting, but Irving sweet-talks him back in. While the Mayor's hands are certainly dirty, all of his off-the-books dealing with wiseguys and such will ultimately benefit the people of New Jersey. Well, at least that's how he sees it. And as Carmine truly befriends Irving, the thought of stabbing him in the back becomes and increasingly heavy burden. Not only does Irving need to get out of this whole thing, but now he needs to get Sydney and Carmine out, too.

Like many films about politics and corruption prior, American Hustle is primarily about two things: greed and power. Each character, regardless of what side of the law they reside, routinely pushes for more, even though they seem to have everything they need right in front of them. For me, that was this movie in a nutshell. We have a talented director, and incredible cast, and a very interesting story. But at the end of the day, for whatever reason I wasn't entirely satisfied. I wanted (Hell, expected) more.

Speaking of letting you down, here are the Yays and Boos for American Hustle. If they had hair, I'm pretty sure it would be in curlers after this one.


  • Old-school Columbia Pictures intro? Solid.
  • Oh, man. After seeing Bale in all his shirtless glory, never has being a fat slob looked so awesome. So you're telling me there's a chance...
  • The perks of owning a dry-cleaning business! Not only all the sweet clothes left behind, but you can pretty much have the most boss fashion show ever.
  • In movies, and perhaps in life, there is that moment when the one woman your supposed to be with storms out, possibly getting away. The thing ever screamed at that closing door? I loved getting to know you!
  • London Associates. Sounds so....regal.
  • Even though I secretly wish that Lawrence had played her character instead, the number of low-cut get ups that Adams finds herself in, is astounding. I actually felt Enchanted for a minute. Well, my pants did.
  • Nothing like kissing the ass of someone you need. So, Wire Lady...tell me about your cats again...
  • Cooper's reaction when he backs off of a ready-and-willing Adams is priceless.
  • Louis C.K.! What the shit? This dude's been in two of the last six movies I've seen. At least in this one, he's not a lying douche. 
  • You have to love a passionate dance under the disco ball. Have to. Even if it results in an emotional deuce.
  • The next time I make a new friend, I'm buying him a science-oven.
  • F--king De Niro is in this! (sorry if I ruined that for you) Not only did I lean forward just seeing him on screen, but then I leaned back because I was getting scared thinking about what he was going to do. This may have been the best scene in the movie.
  • Everyone is hiding behind something. I'll have to admit that I laughed when Sydney called Richie on what he's hiding behind.
  • There's a pretty sweet montage of representatives and other politicians f--king ruining their careers.
  • You want to know what pure joy looks like? Check out Richie and his crew after the big bust.
  • The ending. I thought that lawyer guy was a little too helpful...
  • And finally, Christian Bale. The character of Irving, on paper, is impossible not to love as is. But seeing Bale literally transform and fully lose himself is even better. His performance, regardless of any problems I had with the film, is well worth the price of admission. 

  • I don't know what it is, perhaps an occasional shaky delivery or two, but the script, at times, seems off.
  • For example: You're nothing to me until you're everything. (thud)
  • Famous people with bad hair. For a minute, this movie felt like longest SNL skit ever.
  • I think I have an irrational dislike for Jeremy Renner (even though he seems like a nice enough guy). I can't place it, but I felt like he was the weak link in this one. Maybe it's the Joe Pesci hair, maybe it's that I kept imaging he was going to call Iron Man for help, but I just never bought him as a Jersey mayor named Carmine.
  • What the f--k was up with Richie's, um, mother? Did I miss the part when they explained that he had an ugly boyfriend he called Ma?
  • Maybe I was missed a lot. I mean, for a minute, I thought this entire movie happened and nobody got whacked. No way that happened.
  • Man, Carmine. He's just trying to help. Tell your bitch-ass wife to back the f--k up.
  • When Rosalyn says you're welcome, I actually wanted to reach through the screen and choke the shit out of her.
  • And finally, Jennifer Lawrence. Katniss, I've got a couple of bones to pick with you. First and foremost, the preview led me to believe we would see you in countless compromising positions, but that was not the case. At all. Worse, while I think you are a talented actress, and I loved you in Silver Linings Playbook, something didn't quite gel for me. Rosalyn is a crazy bitch, but I only got the bitch part. Not so much the crazy. Maybe the the character's constant doubt tricked me into thinking it was JLaw was the one lacking confidence.
The more I think about how much this reminds me of a Scorsese pic, the more I think there was nothing David O. Russell could do to prevent that. Sometimes ideas are already out there and we borrow from them without realizing. In fact, I think the whole Scorsese-lite idea wasn't even mine in the first place. I think I stole it from Alex Withrow at And So it Begins... after reading his review of American Hustle. F--k. I never should have read that. F--k f--k. You probably shouldn't be reading this. Just kidding.

You definitely shouldn't be reading this.


  1. I absolutely hate Renner. Like, he has this face that makes me want to punch it, but I sincerely thought he was best in show here. When he finds out about the con, it was the single best scene in the film thanks to his delivery.

    But yeah, we see eye to eye on this.

    And I rip off other reviews all the least I'm sure I do. I rarely read anyone elses reviews until I've written my own, but how many different things can be said about the same film?

    1. Really? Best in show? That's awesome how much we disagree. (Though that scene was great..I was just too focused on making sure my man Irving made it out okay, to be honest. Oh, and hating Mrs. Polito's BS antics).

      That's what I always plan to do, go back and read, but then they post more and more shit and I simply can't keep up. I end up reading a post thinking I'll never see that and then after I'm done, I think Shit, now I want to see that. F--king madness, man.

  2. With all the great performances on show, it was De Niro that I loved the most. That scene was extremely intense! They did well to keep his involvement in the film quiet (well least to me).

    Jen Lawrence was the weak link for me here, even though she was nominated for an Oscar for this.

    1. Yeah, I almost didn't want to spoil his involvement, but I guess it's been long enough at this point to not come off as a jerk for doing so. But yes, that scene was crazy. I thought for sure they were cooked.

      Obviously, I'm totally with you. I didn't want it to seem like I was hating her just to hate her, but I really felt that role, or her version of it, didn't work as well as it should have. Oh, and the preview suggested we'd see her slutting it up, too. DENIED in both fronts.

  3. "I actually felt Enchanted for a minute. Well, my pants did." - LMAO.

    Okay, I seriously loved American Hustle, but Jennifer Lawrence's performance is way overrated. I actually felt bad for Jeremy Renner, he was the only member of the main cast that got zero acclaim it felt like.

    1. Riiiight? How she pulled a nomination for playing a sassy bitch when say, Hanks can't get any love for playing Capt. Phillips infuriates me. Still. Yes, they are different categories, but the principle is maddening. I like Lawrence enough, I just expected a Lorraine Bracco level of desperation, not moderately irritated. Oh well.

      I'm sure Renner will be fine. He'll get to unsheathe some arrows in fantastic fashion soon enough.

  4. I loved the whole cast but disliked Bradley Cooper's over the top performance. And I loved Renner and Lawrence, haha. They felt the most real to me. I actually really liked this movie, perhaps because I felt like the one who got jacked was the right one to get jacked. Ironically, I did scream at various characters several times to just kill someone already. Perhaps that is the sense of disappointment you feel....Cheers (BTW loved your lists!)

    1. I don't know, Dani. I kind of was into Cooper's ridiculousness, only because I thought the film fully worked as a comedy, while it stuttered a bit dramatically. It seems we're seeing this movie from opposite ends. Again, my Renner dislike may be without merit, I'm not sure. It might be the hair.

      Yes! Someone needed to die. My vote? Richie's 'mom' or someone in Carmine's family. Oh, and had De Niro shot somebody, that would have been sweet, too.


  5. You loved Bale and Lawrence is in the boo section. I couldn't possibly agree more here.

    My eyes and ears almost bled during Live and Let Die scene.

    1. Ha! Yeah, I figured you'd be with me there.

      For a second, I was like, F--k yeah, Live and Let Die!, then it really got going and I was like NOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOO!