Friday, 10 January 2014

American Hustle

15, 2014, Directed by David O. Russell
Starring: Christian Bale, Amy Adams, Bradley Cooper, Jennifer Lawrence

American Hustle's tone is set from the opening caption, citing the events of the film as 'mostly true'. David O. Russell's 70s-set caper - which is, yes indeed, loosely based on the FBI ABSCAM operation which saw a pair of con artists forced to set up a sting corruption in order to frame several politicians - is the follow-up to his adorned Silver Linings Playbook (2012), recasting both Bradley Cooper and Jennifer Lawrence in roles secondary to The Fighter's (2010) lead talent, Christian Bale and Amy Adams. With the zaniness amped up, here they play the con artiste counterparts Irving Rosenfeield (complete with hilariously terrible toupee) and Syndey Prosser (complete with hilariously terrible English accent), with Lawrence impressing (who'd have thought it...) as the former's erratic wife, and Cooper slipping into the shoes of undercover agent Richie DiMaso - damn near stealing the film from under everybody's wigs..

Throughout, however, O. Russell distractingly conveys the feel of a picture attempting to capture Scorsese movie magic, instead lacking the required punch that pushes that filmmaker's features towards modern classic status. The whole aesthetically-charged setting of the decade is realised well, with each actor throwing themselves into their assigned role with aplomb. Bale and Adams both impress, dealing with quite a script that captures screwball wit well - most brilliantly utilised by Cooper, his scenes with comedian Louis C.K. reigning most supreme in the membrane. As is the norm ever since her role as Ree Dolly in Winter's Bone, no review would be complete without talk going the way of Lawrence, proving as firecracker Rosalyn that comedy still remains no biggy.

With every character untrustworthy up to their eyeballs, it doesn't prove teeth-sinking material, one questioning whether you would gladly decide to spend time in their company for a rewatch once the screen fades to black. The hard irony O. Russell befalls is that American Hustle would probably benefit from such a rewatch, it's sprawling tangential editing not as slick as all involved believe it to be. But with many a laugh-inducing moment, and a neatly played cameo (that adds to the earlier Scorsese theory), American Hustle is perhaps a bit too ahead of the curve for it's own well-being, but still exists on a scale above most films released this January.




Monday, 6 January 2014

The World's End

2013, 15, Directed by Edgar Wright
StarringSimon Pegg, Nick Frost, Paddy Considine, Eddie Marsan, Martin Freeman, Rosamund Pike

Teased for what feels like an age, the final slice of Edgar Wright's genre-juggling 'Three Flavours: Cornetto' trilogy (kick-started with the near-decade old Shaun of the Dead, followed four years later by the somehow superior Hot Fuzz) arrived this summer amongst a wave of superhero sequels and animated minions. All it takes is a few short scenes to settle into the company of Simon Pegg, Nick Frost and the remainder of the ensemble before realising the territory is identical to those previous yarns, allowing the viewer to approach the entire thing as comfortably as a catch-up down the local with your pals. The World's End is almost identical in tone to the films that have launched the careers of all three to heights they'd have never expected sat on that Spaced apartment circa '99: both zombie horror of the 60s and buddy cop actioners of the 70s have come before, with attention now fixed upon 80's sci-fi. The plot sees Gary King (a never better Pegg, on dickhead form) beg his former teenage beer-guzzlers to reunite in their old sleepy town of Newton Haven. Why? Well, to neck a pint in each of the 11 pubs that make up 'the golden mile,' beginning with 'The First Post' and culminating at 'The World's End'. The more boozed up the gang get, the more awry things becomes - largely thanks to the strange beings that seem to have occupied the sleepy town's residents.

The screenplay, as you'd imagine, is filled with dialogue placed to destroy you with laughter, and each amassed cast member (Paddy Considine, Eddie Marsan, Martin Freeman) ensures their character could stagger about on their own two legs in their personal sitcom.  But this is Pegg's moment. In an at-first alienating switcheroo with the former catalogue of Frost, everybody knows a Gary King (read: annoying 'mate' you'd like to punch in the jaw but can't help but greet with laughter.) The quickfire montages - long since a trademark that sets these comedies apart - take tongue-in-cheek form here, becoming neat visual gags (4 pints and a tap water), repeated but never repetitive, wittily-choreographed sequences that would've made Chaplin chortle, the aesthetically-pleasing 90s soundtrack: these are five ordinary guys doing something ordinary, but it's the talent, not the budget around them, that makes the whole thing extraordinary. 

Between this and Alan Partridge: Alpha Papa, the magic of British comedy shines oh-so brightly.