AMERICAN HUSTLE directed by David O. Russell (USA, 2013)

Following on his superb Silver Linings Playback, David O.Russell makes use of some of the same actors for this highly enjoyable yarn inspired by a FBI operation that went pear-shaped in the late 1970s; hence the pre-credits caption: “Some of this actually happened”.

The sting of a sting of a sting tale left me floundering to follow all the twists and turns of the plot so it’s probably a movie that benefits from a second viewing (I’m only glad I didn’t see it dubbed into Italian!).

Having trimmed down and worked out for The Fighter, Christian Bale has flabbed up for his role as Irving Rosenfield and is all but unrecognisable. With his dodgy hair piece and very 70s fashion sense, he looks like he’s adopted Frank Booth’s smart man disguise from David Lynch’s Blue Velvet.

As a slick con artist, his partner in crime is the seductive Sydney Prosser (Amy Adams) who pretends to be an aristocratic English woman Lady Edith Greensly because this sucks in more victims – desperate men in search of loans.

Girl on fire

Girl on fire

Bubble-permed FBI agent Richie DiMaso (Bradley Cooper) gets wise to their scams and recruits them to lure juicier bait in the form of a Major, politicians and Mafiosi.

Complications start to arise when Irving’s wife Rosalyn (Jennifer Lawrence) gets wind of her husband’s activities and affair with Sydney. Every scene with her in took the movie up a notch for me – Lawrence is an actress at the top of her game and she’s on fire here (as is her kitchen as she frequently has issues with electronic gadgets). Irving describes her as “the Picasso of passive aggressive karate” and at one point she declares vengefully “Sometimes all you have in life are fucked up poisonous choices”.

The movie’s over long but mostly great fun and zips along smoothly thanks to the great ensemble playing (including a menacing cameo from De Niro) and the terrific soundtrack.