American Hustle trailer: Jennifer Lawrence and Bradley Cooper star in preview for new David O. Russell movie. (VIDEO)

David O. Russell’s American Hustle Looks Fantastic

David O. Russell’s American Hustle Looks Fantastic

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Slate's Culture Blog
July 31 2013 12:26 PM

Trailer Critic: American Hustle

The all-star cast of American Hustle

Annapurna Pictures

It’s only been a year since Silver Linings Playbook enamored audiences and the academy alike, but director David O. Russell has kept busy. The trailer for his new film, American Hustle, just arrived online. The two-minute preview is more focused on character than plot, but that’s in keeping with Russell’s oeuvre: His movies are relentlessly character-driven, and often focus on a certain kind of person—one a little off-kilter, whose passions run high, and whose often tortured inner life is brought vividly to life in big performances. Judging from this trailer, American Hustle will bring us such characters in spades.

As for the story: It’s a fictionalized account of the notorious Abscam operation of the late 1970s and early 1980s, in which two con artists worked with a wild FBI agent to uncover political corruption at the highest levels. Their efforts resulted in the conviction of a U.S senator, five congressmen, and multiple members of the Philadelphia City Council. Russell reunites the leading casts of his two previous films—Playbook’s Jennifer Lawrence and Bradley Cooper, The Fighter’s Amy Adams and Christian Bale—and loops in Jeremy Renner as well. He doesn’t show up in the trailer, but the cast also includes Louis C.K., fresh off his tiny role in Blue Jasmine.


Russell’s imprint is clear even in these brief snippets—roving cameras, tight close-ups, quick cuts—and the production design looks to be somewhere between Boogie Nights and Scarface: Fur coats, fast cars, and the manic cigars-and-combovers style of the era are draped over Led Zeppelin’s “Good Times Bad Times.” Plot-wise, this would seem to be Russell’s grimmest film since Three Kings, and it’s not yet clear how he’ll inject his trademark dose of madcap comedy to the story (apart from those hairdos). But it’s safe to say that it’ll be one to catch in theaters this Christmas.

Sharan Shetty is on the editorial staff of the New Yorker. You can follow him on Twitter