Dvd let­ter­box

The Weekend Australian - Review - - Film Reviews - Michael Bodey Twit­ter: @michael­bodey

THE Academy Award nom­i­nees con­tinue their slow re­leases on to DVD and down­load, and the re­sults aren’t al­ways sat­is­fy­ing. This week, Amer­i­can Hus­tle is ready for your judg­ment. Mine? Not so pos­i­tive.

David O. Rus­sell’s fic­tion­al­i­sa­tion of a 1970s po­lit­i­cal st­ing joined a not-so-de­sir­able club ear­lier this year: the club of films that have earned 10 or more Os­car nom­i­na­tions but have failed to win one. It is an in­ter­est­ing group, al­though there is some­thing to the se­lec­tion: The Color Pur­ple, Joel and Ethan Coen’s ver­sion of True Grit, and Gangs of New York. Es­sen­tially, they’re just OK films, and True Grit barely sticks in the mem­ory against so many more in­trigu­ing pieces by the Coens.

Amer­i­can Hus­tle may not re­main in the mem­ory ei­ther. Rather, I’d con­tend this is the type of film Hol­ly­wood should make with lit­tle ef­fort, as it did in the 70s: the en­ter­tain­ing adult drama.

Yet the stu­dio pref­er­ence for sequels and block­busters means what should be Hol­ly­wood’s bread and but­ter, a film such as Amer­i­can Hus­tle or the pre­vi­ous year’s best pic­ture Os­car win­ner, Argo, is cel­e­brated as some­thing rather rev­e­la­tory. They’re ac­com­plished films, sure, and Argo is a tighter film than Amer­i­can Hus­tle — and the com­ing Wolf of Wall Street for that mat­ter.

But these films seem just a lit­tle too happy with them­selves. Amer­i­can Hus­tle, like Wolf of Wall Street, has the pe­riod, it has the bang-on sound­track, it has en­ergy, it has the ac­tors and they have fun. Its sur­face is al­lur­ing. But there’s some­thing dis­pos­able about it. The per­for­mances may be di­vert­ing, or just plain ex­cel­lent in the case of Amy Adams, but their char­ac­ters are, by and large, not wor­thy of a viewer’s love, let alone em­pa­thy.

Rus­sell en­lists a steady line of sup­port­ing per­form­ers, each try­ing to top the next with their 70s-ness. Among Jeremy Ren­ner, Jack Hus­ton, a poorly lit Robert De Niro, Alessan­dro Nivola and Louis CK. Sur­pris­ingly the lat­ter, a co­me­dian, comes off best, al­though this is due to his char­ac­ter, the naysayer within the FBI, not be­ing a will­ing par­tic­i­pant to this malarky.

And what of the story? What was the Ab­scam saga all about ex­actly? It hardly mat­ters. Some politi­cians are stung by a con man used by an FBI agent (Bradley Cooper’s Richie Di­Maso) who is des­per­ate for a ca­reer­mak­ing st­ing. Yet the rev­e­la­tion of the st­ing is al­most a throw­away line at the end.

Yes, Amer­i­can Hus­tle (M, Road­show, 129min, $39.95) is, like so many of its con­tem­po­raries, too long. It’s no The Hob­bit: The Des­o­la­tion of Smaug, though.

But does Rus­sell en­gage with any­thing se­ri­ous? No, Amer­i­can Hus­tle’s eyes are di­verted by its own fab­u­lous­ness. Which is not to say the film should have been a para­ble about the greed of man. But it says some­thing about Hol­ly­wood when you’re like­lier to see a dark para­ble in a Dark Knight movie than in a drama star­ring De Niro.

Newspapers in English

Newspapers from Australia

© PressReader. All rights reserved.