When we saw David O. Russell’s American Hustle on the winter movie schedule, we knew we were going to be in for a unique time. Add into the mix his core group of actors in Christian Bale, Bradley Cooper and Jennifer Lawrence and you get one of the year’s best movies.
We should have seen this coming as Russell is now batting 1.000 through three at bats in the last few years. He surprised us all with a triumphant return to glory with The Fighter and continued his success with Silver Linings Playbook. The streak continues again with American Hustle which goes to show if you get Russell’s hands on a solid actor he’s going to give them the scenery to chew on that will make them great.
Throughout his career, Christian Bale has been an American Psycho a bad guy in a Shaft movie and Batman. We always knew he had it in him to be an Oscar-worthy actor but despite roles where he shrunk his body down to it’s skeletal form in The Mechanic to independent roles that ooze Oscar praise, he had been shut out his whole career.
Pair him with Russell and Bale is at his electric best and we again see this in American Hustle. There are roles that when you see them, you just get a gut feeling about them being special. When you’re in the theater and you light up every time that character is on the screen, that’s a connection that actors strive for and it’s one Bale strikes in American Hustle.
To be clear, everyone is great in this. Bradley Cooper continues to win me over as one of the most underrated actors working today. He’s operating in a way that Brad Pitt did in the 90s where, to unsuspecting viewers, he’s just a pretty boy who gets too much tabloid attention but watch one of his movies and he transforms into one of your favorite actors. The same goes for Jennifer Lawrence who gets written off by the causal movie hipster as being too mainstream, but she’s gone from Katniss Everdeen to a foul mouthed floozy who pulsates every time she’s on the screen and is the proverbial pin in the grenade that is American Hustle.
But no one is as unforgettable or as watchable as Christian Bale, who drops the chiseled Batman physique to play a fat, balding con artist you can’t help but love. He’s the heartbeat of the movie and will be the one thing you just can’t get out of your head once you leave the theater. The film won’t hold up against the other Oscar favorites but it’s up there and Bale’s performance is going to take a lot of voters by surprise.