“American Hustle” Casting Review


Following up on the critical success of 2012’s Silver Linings Playbook, American Hustle is the next film from director David O’Russell. The film reunites actors from across O’Russell’s recent films, as well as adding some new faces to the mix. This blend of actors mixes well to create some of the best performances of the year, and several of the film’s leads are sure to get critical attention this awards season.

The film itself is all about hustling and conning in 1970s New Jersey. The film’s “protagonists” are “Irving Rosenfeld” and “Sydney Prosser”, two con artists that get busted by the feds, and are then forced to work for the FBI to help entrap and bust high-profile targets. Christian Bale and Amy Adams play Irving and Sydney; both are former O’Russell alums, having co-starred together in 2010’s The Fighter. Bale continues to prove (as if there was any doubt), that he is one of the most incredible and diverse actors in his field. Bale’s Irving is a schlubby conman full of moxie and charisma, but also happens to have a conscience, and cares deeply about his family and loved ones. As usual, Bale effortlessly pulls off this role, which is an admirable feat considering he’s a native actor from the U.K., which only further validates how well-trained international actors are.

Ironically, Amy Adams’ Sydney spends a majority of the film speaking in a British accent (her character is American but pretends to be British as part of their “con”)–which is humorous since this means that the film’s two leads are a British actor playing American, and an American actress playing pseudo-British. Sydney is arguably the most complex and layered character in the film, and Adams deserves much praise for her role as the emotionally volatile heroine. Adams is consistently nominated for Academy Awards for her performances, and her role in American Hustle should be no different. Although finding consistent work has never really been an issue for Adams in recent years, she has become especially busy and in demand as of late. Besides for starring in critically acclaimed films like The MasterAmerican Hustle, and Her, she is also currently set to reprise her role as the iconic female character “Lois Lane” in Zack Snyder’s blockbuster Man of Steel franchise.

Adding to the list of O’Russell alums — Bradley Cooper, Jennifer Lawrence, and Robert De Niro all have roles in American Hustle, the three reuniting from their recent work on Silver Linings Playbook. Cooper plays FBI agent “Richie DiMaso” and is the agent that busts Irving and Sydney and forces them to work for him. Cooper brings his brand of charm and swagger to his character, while also showing a considerable level of vulnerability. People will understandably draw comparisons between this character and his role in Silver Linings Playbook, and although both have similar qualities, Cooper’s Richie is a lot meaner and more aggressive: in fact, he’s very much the antagonist in this story, which is a nice change of pace for him.  Jennifer Lawrence takes a more supporting role this time around and plays “Rosalyn”, the young wife to Bale’s Irving. To no one’s surprise, Lawrence absolutely lights up the screen, and steals every scene that she’s in. You can tell she has a lot of fun with this character, and she easily has some of the best dialogue and banter in the entire film. This role also continues to show how incredibly versatile Lawrence is. Although she is only 23-years-old, she has a mature quality to her and can easily play young teenaged roles as well as much older, as can be seen in her work in O’Russell’s films. Finally, it’s interesting to note that Robert De Niro adds his name (so to speak) to the list of O’Russell alums in American Hustle. I say this because De Niro only makes a cameo appearance this time around, playing mobster boss “Victor Tellegio”. Like most surprise cameos, De Niro’s appearance is brief, but thoroughly entertaining. Fun fact: De Niro isn’t even officially credited in this film. If you stay and watch all the end credits of the film, his name is nowhere to be found. Of course, this lack of crediting is fairly common when it comes to cameo appearances, although it does boggle the mind as to why De Niro wouldn’t want to be credited in this . . .

Of course, not every actor in American Hustle is a returning O’Russell alum, and there are a handful of welcome newcomers that need to be mentioned. Jeremy Renner is part of this group, and plays “Mayor Carmine Polito”, the mayor of New Jersey, and one of the few characters in the entire story that is actually honest and morally upstanding. In this latest role, Renner continues to show his range, and readily proves that he can play anything from an action movie star to a complex, damaged individual. Continuing his foray into critically acclaimed feature films, comedian/actor Louis C.K. is another new face in American Hustle, and plays “Stoddard Thorsen”, another FBI agent and the direct supervisor to Cooper’s Richie. Having most recently appeared in the Woody Allen film Blue Jasmine, Louis C.K., yet again, is a fun addition to the mix and brings to Hustle his usual brand of offbeat humor and realism. Some of the film’s most comedic moments are between his character and Richie. Finally, Michael Peña is another welcome addition to the film, and plays FBI agent “Paco Hernandez”, one of Richie’s fellow agents that assists him throughout the story. Peña is a recognizable leading man in his own right, so seeing him appear in American Hustle is a fun surprise–especially since his role is quite comedic and scene stealing.

With awards season now in full swing, looking at the casts for the various films vying for the spotlight is all the more interesting and entertaining. Casts for these films often have powerhouse ensembles of A-list talent as well as breakout performances from both unknown and established actors, a la American Hustle. The cast and chemistry in O’Russell’s latest film is a perfect example of the caliber of actors and performances one can expect throughout awards season. Happy watching!

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