You wait all year for a movie like this, with its drop-dead cast and funny witty script, tied together by the ever-more-assured David O. Russell. Bradley Cooper shines brightest as the hard-charging man in charge, who doesn’t realize he’s in over his head. As fortunes turn throughout the film, Cooper rockets between victory and defeat in Oscar-worthy manner. The movie is a love story, a meditation on moral squishiness, a bit of a thriller, and overall, a set of remarkable characters. Jennifer Lawrence evolves completely into the nymphet wife who seems white-trashy at first, then surprises you with more than you thought was there; not for a moment do you think of Katniss Everdeen. Christian Bale and Amy Adams add further complexity: Bale’s combover is practically its own role, and Adams (who seems to be morphing into Kristen Wiig. or is it the other way around?) neatly keeps us guessing about her loyalty in the Bale-Cooper triangle she completes. De Niro turns up for one pretty juicy scene and the great Jack Jones graces the soundtrack with a snappy “I’ve Got Your Number”. (He’s on camera for about five seconds as the camera whirls by during a party scene.) In fact, all the songs seem to kick up the mood where they’re placed. A seriously entertaining movie. — Jeff Schultz

David O. Russell made one of the best movies of 2012. SILVER LININGS PLAYBOOK was a crazy movie about crazy people doing crazy things and falling in a crazy kind of love. Jennifer Lawrence won a Best Actress Oscar for her manic performance. So, “getting the team back together” seemed like a no brainer. Add Christian Bale, Amy Adams and Jeremy Renner and it was a recipe for another run at Oscar. Or, AMERICAN HUSTLE could have been a major fuck up. Thankfully, with Russell at the helm it works on many levels. The story of the 1970’s ABSCAM sting which brought down congressmen, a mayor and one senator from New Jersey was part of the fabric of my youth because I grew up in the Garden State. So I was interested to see how this was all handled. Some may criticize the movie for playing fast and loose with the facts. Well folks, it’s a movie. Get over it. It is told from the perspective of the con artists who the FBI employed to carry out the sting. Christian Bale is fat and has the worst/best combover in movie history. Bradley Cooper has a perm.. ‘nuff said. Amy Adams is fantastic as Bale’s mistress, and along with Jennifer Lawrence bring a huge amount of sexy to the movie. But AMERICAN HUSTLE is more than a story about the sting. It’s a love story. A man (Bale) caught between his wife and his mistress. The mistress wondering where she fits in after being scorned. It’s just a thoroughly entertaining movie with drama and laughs. Definitely one of the best films of 2013. — Alan Yudman

Watching this, one can’t help but feel like they’re being hustled.  The last great movie David O. Russell made was The Fighter. Silver Linings Playbook was just horrible and this one is good…after the first hour. It takes a while to get moving and once it does, it ends up being just okay. The cast does a good job although it was tough to forget I was watching Bale, Adams, Cooper, and Lawrence act. I just don’t understand why the Academy has such a thing for this guy. Don’t believe the hype.  — Stormy Curry

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