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Crime drama inspires reflection on American ambition

Published: Sunday, February 2, 2014

Updated: Sunday, February 2, 2014 22:02

“Some of this actually happened,” the screen flashes at the beginning of director David O. Russell’s gripping and darkly hilarious crime drama “American Hustle.”

But while its epigraph jokes about the questionable truth of film, the movie that follows ultimately serves as a serious warning of chasing cravings too ambitiously.

When con-man Irving Rosenfeld (Christian Bale) and his partner in crime Sydney Prosser (Amy Adams) are busted by the FBI, they find themselves forced to work for agent Richie DiMaso in return for the clearance of their charges.

Determined to make a name for himself by exposing government crime, the unpredictable DiMaso pushes Irving and Sydney into a deadly last con involving U.S. officials and Mafia shot callers.

Every character in “Hustle” is flawed, blinded by desires for money, love and fame.

Irving, who develops a romantic connection with Sydney, longs to break away from his wife Roslyn (Jennifer Lawrence) who refuses to divorce him.

Sydney dreams of a fresh start with Irving, fantasizing of a new life with a man she cannot have.

Mayor Carmine Polito (Jeremy Renner) accepts bribes to further his vision for his city, unknowingly exposing himself to the FBI.

DiMaso throws himself into the pursuit of professional success, taking chances with his operation that nearly get the group killed.

The entire show is a disaster that keeps Irving on his toes fighting for survival. Though his experience as a professional criminal allows him to stay one step ahead of his enemies, staying afloat amidst the dangers of DiMaso’s operation shows him the many errors of his past.

As his deceptive lifestyle causes his relationship with Sydney, the safety of his family, and the trust of his new friendship with Polito to spiral out of his control, Irving must do everything he can to hold the strands of his life together.

By the time the credits roll, every character has been broken in some way by his or her own designs.

“American Hustle” shows that, despite the purity of intentions, the drive to fulfill our desires comes with a cost.

With an engaging, thought-provoking plot, this crime drama is one worth watching.

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