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Laramie Movie Scope:
American Hustle

Con men trapped in an FBI sting operation

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by Robert Roten, Film Critic
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December 31, 2013 -- A complicated FBI sting operation is combined with not one, but two love triangles in this sharp, witty comedy drama topped by an audacious ending. David O. Russell, who directed last year's great romantic comedy, “Silver Linings Playbook,” is back this year with another gem. Also returning for “American Hustle” are the two stars of “Silver Linings,” Jennifer Lawrence and Bradley Cooper.

The story is loosely based on the FBI's Abscam sting operation in the late 1970s and early 1980s. FBI agent Richie DiMaso (played by Bradley Cooper) traps small-time con artists Irving Rosenfeld (played by Christian Bale of “The Dark Knight Rises”) and Sydney Prosser (Amy Adams of “Man of Steel”) in a sting operation. Using the threat of prosecution against them, he forces them to help him in a bigger sting operation involving the Mayor of Camden, N.J., Carmine Polito (Jeremy Renner of “Mission Impossible: Ghost Protocol”).

Polito wants to attract casinos to his town, but can't find investors. DiMaso, Rosenfeld and Prosser pose as agents for a wealthy Arab sheik who promises to invest in the casinos. The con gets dangerous when Florida mobsters get interested in the casinos. The whole deal almost falls apart when mobster Victor Tellegio (Robert De Niro of “Grudge Match”) almost discovers that the sheik is an FBI imposter.

Tellegino insists that his organization will not do business with the sheik unless he becomes an American citizen. The mobsters also want to see $10 million deposited in a bank controlled by them as a sign of good faith. Polito says he knows some U.S. Congressmen who can arrange for the sheik to become a U.S. citizen, for a price.

The situation is complicated by Rosenfeld's wife, Rosalyn (Jennifer Lawrence) who cozies up to one of the mobsters and almost exposes the whole sting operation with some loose talk. Rosalyn is also jealous of Prosser, who is having an affair with her husband. DiMaso is also having an affair with Prosser. Rosalyn is having her own affair with one of the gangsters.

FBI agent Richie DiMaso is also a loose cannon in his own right. In addition to having an affair with Prosser, he assaults his boss at the FBI for not supporting his sting operation. Fortunately for DiMaso, ambitious people higher up in the FBI are willing to overlook this because the sting operation may net congressmen, local politicians and mobsters.

Rosenfeld and Prosser are afraid they will become targetted by mobsters as soon as the FBI sting operation is announced. They need to figure out a way to get out of this situation without being killed by gangsters or being jailed by the FBI. Rosenfeld also doesn't like the fact that Polito, who is basically a good guy, may go to prison for a long time, just for trying to help his city. Rosenfeld and Prosser need to come up with a plan to straighten out this mess.

The ending is as clever as the plot is complicated. The story, written by David O. Russell and Eric Singer, crackles with authentic-sounding dialog. The acting is superb by the lead actors, with some strong supporting performances. This film is dramatic and it is funny at the same time, as it exposes the absurdities in this crazy situation. This film rates an A.

Click here for links to places to buy or rent this movie in digital formats, or to buy the soundtrack, posters, books, even used videos, games, electronics and lots of other stuff. I suggest you shop at least two of these places before buying anything. Prices seem to vary continuously. For more information on this film, click on this link to The Internet Movie Database. Type in the name of the movie in the search box and press enter. You will be able to find background information on the film, the actors, and links to much more information.

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Copyright © 2013 Robert Roten. All rights reserved.
Reproduced with the permission of the copyright holder.
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Robert Roten can be reached via e-mail at my last name at lariat dot org. [Mailer button: image of letter and envelope]

(If you e-mail me with a question about this or any other movie or review, please mention the name of the movie you are asking the question about, otherwise I may have no way of knowing which film you are referring to)