American Hustle

Rated 5.0

American Hustle is a sardonically comical caper movie, a semipicaresque period piece set among con artists, influence peddlers, political fixers, etc., in the late 1970s. Banking scams, FBI stings, Mafia politics, governmental corruption, fashion excesses, and elaborate double-crosses all have roles to play. It’s a beguiling tale, with a nicely timed set of surprise twists laid out along the way. But what makes this one of the best films of the year is mostly a matter of superb, beautifully directed performances from a fine cast, including especially its four leading players. The key figures here are a sleazy entrepreneur/con man (Christian Bale), a frenetically ambitious young FBI agent (Bradley Cooper), a gifted quick-change artist (Amy Adams), and the Bale character’s hilariously erratic wife (Jennifer Lawrence). Bale is especially brilliant—giving unexpected shades of emotion and intelligence to a character who at first seems merely a mild comic-grotesque character. Cinemark 14. Rated R