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dir David O Russell
scr Eric Singer, David O Russell
prd Megan Ellison, Jonathan Gordon, Charles Roven, Richard Suckle
with Christian Bale, Amy Adams, Bradley Cooper, Jennifer Lawrence, Jeremy Renner, Louis CK, Jack Huston, Michael Pena, Shea Whigham, Alessandro Nivola, Elisabeth Rohm, Robert De Niro
release US 18.Dec.13, UK 20.Dec.14
13/US Columbia 2h19
On the game: Bale, Adams and Cooper
|R E V I E W B Y R I C H C L I N E|
Based on the real events surrounding Abscam, this fiercely clever film centres on the inter-relationships rather than the elaborate sting. As a result, we see beyond the outrageously stylish hair and costumes and find ourselves deeply involved in the escalating personal craziness.
In 1978 New York, conman Irving (Bale) is making a decent living with his girlfriend Sydney (Adams) by keeping the stakes low. Although it's a bigger job to keep his wife Rosalyn (Lawrence) in the dark about all of this. Then Irving and Sydney are rumbled by FBI agent Richie (Cooper), who coerces them into launching a scam to entrap mobsters and dirty politicians, including likeable Mayor Polito (Renner). As the sting escalates, Irving worries that it's getting far too big to work, while Sydney starts flirting dangerously with Richie.
"Some of this actually happened," says the opening caption. And indeed the script has the ring of truth to it: even as things get increasingly ridiculous, it still feels eerily plausible. And Russell wisely centres on the shifting relationships, blurring the details of the undercover trickery into the background. Viewers looking for a sharp expose about Abscam might be disappointed by this approach, but it makes the movie almost unnervingly engaging.
All of these people are losers, but they don't know it. And the actors have a terrific time playing them. The superb Bale deploys his elaborate combover and beer belly as a man who has learned how to blend in with the wallpaper to get what he wants. Adams and Cooper have flashier roles as aggressive people who continually deflect the truth about them, while Lawrence steals the show as a woman who's both hilariously assured and completely wrong about everything. The extended sequence in which she and Adams glare viciously at each other is pure movie magic: we don't notice anything happening around them, even though it's probably important to the plot.
This bait and switch style of filmmaking has always been Russell's forte. Surfaces don't really matter to him, but this film has the most striking surfaces imaginable, with absolutely outrageous hair, costumes and sets that are inventively integrated into the plot. But all of those are distractions for a story about greed and corruption in which the wrong people pay the price. What's more American than that?
|R E A D E R R E V I E W S|
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© 2013 by Rich Cline, Shadows on the Wall|
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