CRIME; 2hr 18min
STARRING: Christian Bale, Bradley Cooper, Amy Adams, Jennifer Lawrence
Cooper (left) and Bale suffer sartorially for their art
He beefed up for American Psycho, lost the lot for The Machinist and in the FBI Abscam ruse-inspired American Hustle, Christian Bale writes the book on unflattering. Corpulent and combed-over, he’s a peacock with money-spinning plans as 1970s drycleaning-chain owner and con artist Irving Rosenfeld.
Irving’s girlfriend, Sydney Prosser (Adams), is the class to his brass, in risky business and in bed. Life would be aces but for two big flies in its ointment: Irving’s high-maintenance wife, Rosalyn (blonde tornado Lawrence), who is a manipulative flake, and FBI loose-cannon Richie DiMaso (Cooper), who has Irving and Sydney by the short and curlies. They unwillingly agree to be part of Richie’s corruption-busting shakedown, in which New Jersey political figures will be seduced into accepting bribes.
Richie’s touch-and-go plan is a spinny barrel of laughs, its showily costumed players going a mile a minute. Any film this long is a beefy chunk to digest. But thanks to juiced direction from Silver Linings Playbook’s David O. Russell (who co-wrote the screenplay) and actors with the spark and class to pull the gabby moves off, the down-low is loopy, nonstop subterfuge — topped off by the world’s worst hair.