American Hustle

This article is about the 2013 film. For the 2007 film, see Katt Williams: American Hustle.
American Hustle

Theatrical release poster
Directed by David O. Russell
Produced by Charles Roven
Richard Suckle
Megan Ellison
Jonathan Gordon
Written by David O. Russell
Eric Warren Singer
Starring Christian Bale
Bradley Cooper
Amy Adams
Jeremy Renner
Jennifer Lawrence
Music by Danny Elfman
Cinematography Linus Sandgren
Edited by Jay Cassidy
Crispin Struthers
Alan Baumgarten
Distributed by Columbia Pictures
Release dates
  • December 8, 2013 (2013-12-08) (Ziegfeld Theatre)
  • December 13, 2013 (2013-12-13) (United States)
Running time
138 minutes[1]
Country United States
Language English
Budget $40 million[2]
Box office $251.1 million[3]

American Hustle is a 2013 American criminal black comedy-drama film[4] directed by David O. Russell. It was written by Eric Warren Singer and Russell, inspired by the FBI ABSCAM operation of the late 1970s and early 1980s.[5] It stars Christian Bale and Amy Adams as two con artists who are forced by an FBI agent (Bradley Cooper) to set up an elaborate sting operation on corrupt politicians, including the mayor of Camden, New Jersey (Jeremy Renner). Jennifer Lawrence plays the unpredictable wife of Bale's character. Principal photography on the film began on March 8, 2013, in Boston and Worcester, Massachusetts, and New York City.

American Hustle had its nationwide release in the United States on December 13, 2013.[6] It opened to wide acclaim from critics, who praised its writing and ensemble cast. The film received ten nominations at the 86th Academy Awards, including Best Picture, Best Director, Best Original Screenplay, Best Actor (Bale), Best Actress (Adams), Best Supporting Actor (Cooper), and Best Supporting Actress (Lawrence),[7] but did not win in any category. It received three BAFTA Awards, three Golden Globe Awards including Best Motion Picture – Musical or Comedy, and the Screen Actors Guild Award for Outstanding Performance by a Cast in a Motion Picture.


In 1978, con artists Irving Rosenfeld (Christian Bale) and Sydney Prosser (Amy Adams) have started a relationship and are working together. Sydney has improved Rosenfeld's scams, posing as English aristocrat "Lady Edith Greensly." Irving loves Sydney, though is hesitant to leave his unstable and histrionic[8] wife Rosalyn (Jennifer Lawrence), fearing he will lose contact with her son Danny, whom Irving has adopted. Rosalyn has also threatened to report Irving to the police if he leaves her. FBI agent Richie DiMaso (Bradley Cooper) catches Irving and Sydney in a loan scam, but offers to release them if Irving can line up four additional arrests. Richie believes Sydney is English but has proof that her claim of aristocracy is fraudulent. Sydney tells Irving she will manipulate Richie, distancing herself from Irving.

Irving has a friend pretending to be a wealthy Arab sheikh looking for potential investments in America. An associate of Irving's suggests the sheikh do business with Mayor Carmine Polito (Jeremy Renner) of Camden, New Jersey, who is campaigning to revitalize gambling in Atlantic City, New Jersey, but has struggled in fundraising. Carmine seems to have a genuine desire to help the area's economy and his constituents. Richie devises a plan to make mayor Polito the target of a sting operation, despite the objections of Irving and of Richie's boss, Stoddard Thorsen (Louis C.K.). Sydney helps Richie manipulate an FBI secretary into making an unauthorized wire transfer of $2,000,000. When Stoddard's boss, Anthony Amado (Alessandro Nivola), hears of the operation, he praises Richie's initiative, pressuring Stoddard to continue.

Carmine leaves their meeting when Richie presses him to accept a cash bribe. Irving convinces Carmine the sheikh is legitimate, expressing his dislike of Richie, and the two become friends. Richie arranges for Carmine to meet the sheikh, and without consulting the others, has Mexican-American FBI agent Paco Hernandez (Michael Peña) play the sheikh, which displeases Irving. Carmine brings the sheikh to a casino party, explaining mobsters are there and it is a necessary part of doing business. Irving is surprised to hear that Mafia overlord Victor Tellegio (Robert De Niro), right-hand man to Meyer Lansky, is present, and that he wants to meet the sheikh. Mafia man Tellegio explains that the business needs the sheikh to become an American citizen and that Carmine will need to expedite the process. Tellegio also requires a $10,000,000 wire transfer to prove the sheikh's legitimacy.

Richie confesses his strong attraction to Sydney but becomes confused and aggressive when she drops her English accent and admits to being from Albuquerque, New Mexico. Rosalyn starts an affair with a mobster Pete Musane (Jack Huston), whom she met at the party. She mentions her belief that Irving is working with the Internal Revenue Service, causing Pete to threaten Irving, who promises to prove the sheikh's investment is real. Irving later confronts Rosalyn, who admits she told Pete and agrees to keep quiet but wants a divorce. With Carmine's help, Richie and Irving videotape members of Congress receiving bribes. Richie assaults Stoddard in a fight over the money and later convinces Amado that he needs the US$10,000,000 to get Tellegio, but gets only US$2,000,000. A meeting is arranged at the offices of Tellegio's lawyer, Alfonse Simone (Paul Herman), but Tellegio does not appear.

Irving visits Carmine and admits to the scam, but says he has a plan to help him. Carmine throws Irving out and the loss of their friendship hits Irving hard. The feds inform Irving that their US$2,000,000 is missing, and that they have received an anonymous offer to return the money in exchange for Irving and Sydney's immunity and a reduced sentence for Carmine. Amado accepts the deal and Stoddard removes Richie from the case, which effectively ends his career, dropping him back into obscurity. Irving and Sydney move in together and open a legitimate art gallery, while Rosalyn lives with Pete and shares custody of Danny with Irving.


Several of the characters are fictional versions of specific real-life counterparts:[9][10]


Star Bradley Cooper in Paris at the film's French premiere, February 2014.


The film began as an Eric Warren Singer screenplay titled American Bullshit. It was listed at #8 on the 2010 Black List of unproduced screenplays. The production was set up at Columbia Pictures with Charles Roven and Richard Suckle producing through Atlas Entertainment, who initially considered Ben Affleck to direct before David O. Russell ultimately signed on to helm the film.[14] Russell re-wrote Singer's screenplay, replacing the characters with caricatures of their respective real-life figures.[15] Russel regarded “Hustle,” a highly fictionalized version of the Abscam scandal of the late ’70s and early ’80s, as the third in a loose trilogy of films about ordinary people trying to live passionate lives.[16]


Principal photography started on March 8, 2013 and wrapped in May 2013.[17][18] The film was shot in and around Boston, Massachusetts (such as in Worcester), and in New York City.[19][20] Filming was put on hold in the aftermath of the Boston Marathon bombings with the city in lockdown. After lockdown was lifted, the film wrapped its Boston shoot and spent its final few days of production in New York City.[21]


Director David O. Russell released the teaser trailer for the film on July 31, 2013,[22] and a theatrical trailer was released on October 9, 2013.[23] The film received nationwide US release on 13 December 2013.[24]

Home media

American Hustle was released on DVD and Blu-ray on March 18, 2014.[25]


Critical response

American Hustle received critical acclaim, and the cast received praise for their performances, notably Christian Bale, Bradley Cooper, Amy Adams and Jennifer Lawrence. Review aggregation website Rotten Tomatoes gives the film a 93% rating, based on 257 reviews, with an average score of 8.2/10. The site's critical consensus reads, "Riotously funny and impeccably cast, American Hustle compensates for its flaws with unbridled energy and some of David O. Russell's most irrepressibly vibrant direction."[26] Metacritic gives a score of 90 out of 100, based on 47 critics, indicating "universal acclaim".[27]

Christy Lemire awarded the film four out of four stars, praising David O. Russell's directing and the relationship between Irving and Sydney, as well as Jennifer Lawrence's portrayal of Rosalyn. She writes: "For all its brashness and big personality, American Hustle is a character study at its core—an exploration of dissatisfaction and drive, and the lengths to which we're willing to go for that elusive thing known as a better life."[28] Richard Roeper of the Chicago Sun-Times gave the film an A+, especially complimenting Bradley Cooper's performance and stating that American Hustle was "the best time I've had at the movies all year." He later named it the year's best film.[29] Time magazine's Richard Corliss wrote, "American Hustle is an urban eruption of flat-out fun — the sharpest, most exhilarating comedy in years. Anyone who says otherwise must be conning you."[30]

Peter Debruge of Variety was critical of the film, calling it "a sloppy sprawl of a movie" and complaining that the improvisational performances overwhelm instead of adding to a coherent plot. He also went on to write that it "makes your brain hurt — and worse, overwhelms the already overcomplicated Abscam retelling at the center of the film."[31]

Top ten lists

American Hustle was listed on many critics' top ten lists.[32]

Box office

American Hustle is Russell's highest grossing film[3]

Variety estimated the production budget at $40 million. When producer Charles Roven was asked if the budget was in the $40 to $50 million area, he responded “I’d say that’s a good zone.”[2][3]

As of April 9, 2014 the film has earned $150,117,807 at the North American domestic box office and an additional $101,054,000 in international markets for a total worldwide box office of $251,171,807.[3][33]


American Hustle received seven Golden Globe Award nominations; it won for Best Motion Picture – Musical or Comedy, with Amy Adams and Jennifer Lawrence winning Best Actress – Motion Picture Musical or Comedy and Best Supporting Actress – Motion Picture respectively.[34][35]

The film received 10 Academy Award nominations, including Best Picture, Best Director, Best Original Screenplay, and all four acting categories,[7] but did not win in any category. The film has the second most nominations without a win, a distinction it shares with True Grit and Gangs of New York, after the 11 for 1977’s The Turning Point and 1985’s The Color Purple. It was the 15th film ever to be nominated in the four acting categories, and only the second since 1981, after 2012's Silver Linings Playbook, which Russell also directed.[36] Of the fifteen such films, it joins only 1936's My Man Godfrey and 1950's Sunset Boulevard to not win any acting awards.

The film took top honors at the 20th Screen Actors Guild Awards, winning for Outstanding Cast in a Motion Picture.[37]

The film was nominated for 10 British Academy Film Awards, with Jennifer Lawrence winning for Actress in a Supporting Role, and David O. Russell and Eric Warren Singer winning for Best Original Screenplay.[38][39]


In October 2014, science writer Paul Brodeur filed a lawsuit against Columbia Pictures based on a line in the film in which Rosalyn tells Irving that microwave ovens take the nutrition out of food, stating that she read so in an article by Brodeur. In real life, Brodeur has written books including The Zapping of America about the dangers of microwave radiation, but claims that he has never stated that the process removes a food's nutrition.[40][41]

Historical accuracy

American Hustle does not attempt to directly document the events of Abscam. The names are changed, and the film begins with the on-screen message, "Some of this actually happened".[10] Major departures from reality include:


  1. "American Hustle (2013)". British Board of Film Classification. Retrieved March 9, 2014.
  2. 1 2 Steve Chagollan (November 19, 2013). "'Hustle' Ups Ante for Charles Roven, David O. Russell". Variety. Retrieved December 13, 2013. When pressed with a $40 million-$50 million figure, Roven responds: “I’d say that’s a good zone.”
  3. 1 2 3 4 "American Hustle". Box Office Mojo. Retrieved April 9, 2014.
  4. Peter Bradshaw. "Golden Globes 2014: Don't Be Duped by American Hustle". The Guardian.
  5. Sherman, Ted (November 25, 2013). "Jersey Hustle: The real-life story of Abscam". The Star-Ledger. Retrieved 3 December 2013.
  6. Caroline Westbrook. "Jennifer Lawrence begins work on untitled Abscam project with Bradley Cooper". March 22, 2013. Retrieved March 22, 2013.
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  11. Fried, Joseph P. (2 May 1981). "WILLIAMS IS GUILTY ON ALL NINE COUNTS IN ABSCAM INQUIRY". The New York Times. Retrieved 30 November 2014.
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  17. "David O Russell's 'American Hustle' Halts Production Because Of Boston Manhunt". PMC. April 19, 2013. Retrieved August 17, 2013.
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  19. Warner, Kara (April 16, 2013). "David O. Russell's Next Movie Now Called 'American Hustle'". Yahoo! Movies. Retrieved August 17, 2013.
  20. "Jennifer Lawrence, Amy Adams strip in American Hustle trailer". India Today Online. August 1, 2013. Retrieved August 17, 2013.
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  39. "Bafta Film Awards 2014: Full list of winners". BBC News. February 16, 2014. Retrieved March 9, 2014.
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  41. D’Addario, Daniel (31 October 2014). "American Hustle Microwave Scene Sparks Lawsuit". Time. Retrieved 30 November 2014.
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