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"American Hustle": Goodfellas, the Comedy 

Wednesday, Dec 18 2013

Trying to set a somber drama against faithful recreations of the inherently funny fashions and interior designs of the late 1970s would be tough, so it's a good thing that David O. Russell's American Hustle is played as a comedy. The picture follows a New York con man (Christian Bale) and his partner in scam (Amy Adams) as they're recruited by an ambitious FBI agent (Bradley Cooper) to bust crooked politicians, particularly a New Jersey mayor (Jeremy Renner). There's a lot of Goodfellas in the DNA, including dueling narrations, an ear-candy soundtrack full of the moribund music of the '70s, and a De Niro cameo, but American Hustle is ultimately about America finding its post-Watergate identity. This is symbolized by the amount of time the main characters spend working on their appearance — indeed, the key to the film's themes may be in the hair regimens — and the cast is clearly having a ball, playing broadly pitched Long Islanders who speak with their hands while gnawing on the scenery. If you listen closely, you can hear traces of Bale's infamous "Oh, good for you!" rant from the set of Terminator: Salvation, and it's also refreshing to see Renner invested in his character, giving American Hustle all the fucks he did not give Hansel & Gretel: Witch Hunters.

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Sherilyn Connelly

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