Saving AMERICAN HUSTLE

So, “AMERICAN HUSTLE” got nominated for some Oscars, right? The acting in it was superb, right? Loads of people saw it, right?

So, what’s to “save”?

The whole damn movie, that’s what.

You may have enjoyed it for the acting. Or the great period costumes. Or Amy Adams’ precariously placed breasts. But one thing I did not enjoy was the pacing. Wow. I started zoning out once the relationship between Adams’ and Bale’s characters was established. I never really zoned back in after that. Well, that’s not entirely true. I made myself pay attention once the story seemed to be reaching the climax.

The thing is, the climax is pretty anticlimactic. In fact, I have to struggle just to remember what it is. I guess it was the part where we discover how Bale’s character turns the tables. That whole scene has such a calmness to it, that it felt weak to me.

Imagine the briefing scene in the original “STAR WARS” film where they’re learning about the exhaust port of the Death Star. Only instead of cutting to the trench battle scene, they cut to a scene where Luke enters a room and calmly explains to Princess Leia that the Death Star has already been destroyed–they left a huge bomb there before rescuing her and detonated it when she was using the rebel base’s bathroom.

I don’t know, maybe 8 seasons of the British caper/comedy “HUSTLE” have biased me, but if you’re going to tell a story about con artists, you need to make it a bit more flashy than just presenting these lying bastards for what they are. I mean, I’ve seen “AMERICAN HUSTLE” described as a “madcap” film.

Uh, no.

However, if the film had been shot and cut like an episode of the BBC’s “HUSTLE” THEN we’d be talking. Then I wouldn’t be so bored watching these somewhat horrible people make their way through their scam.

That’s the big difference between “AMERICAN HUSTLE” and “HUSTLE.” We like the grifters in the latter–they’re actually good people who have discovered that their natural talent lies in conning people. They live by the code “You can’t con an honest man.”

Sadly, “AMERICAN HUSTLE” is made up of characters who have no such code, are somewhat morally reprehensible and really aren’t terribly likeable. So, for two hours we’re forced to follow them move through their con even though we (or at least *I*) don’t really want any of them to succeed. I know the film is based on real events, but that’s why it’s got to be cut and shot in a way that’s much more interesting than just ripping off the pacing, cinematography and editing style of “GOODFELLAS.”

Is “AMERICAN HUSTLE” entertaining? Sure. I guess so, but you have to admit, it would be better if it were done my way. (Just watch an episode of “HUSTLE” and tell me I’m wrong.)