‘American Hustle’ (David O.Russell, 2013)

The last three or four years has seen a late-career explosion for the perennial underachiever David O.Russell. Grounding himself firmly in the American North East, scribbling out decent, mid-budget scripts and surrounding himself with a small troupe of actors, he’s finally found his niche in a competitive market.

American Hustle, a frivolous, highly entertaining caper, is too insubstantial to deserve serious awards contention. Made for the dressing and the actors. A 138-minute runtime may give the impression that there are deep wells of dramatic depth, but this is effectively the antithesis of O.Russell’s Silver Lining’s Playbook (drama masquerading as frothy rom-com), with little more to it than a time-travel Ocean’s 11 (a role Clooney’s own imminent Monument’s Men also appears to fill). 

There’s no shame in being an antidote to dreary weather and post-Christmas blues. This is an extremely satisfying picture, a problem only arises if audiences begin to mistake its lurid hair, panto costumes and predictable pop soundscape for something of greater significance. It’s fluff. Expert fluff, but fluff nonetheless.