By Stu Horsfield Director: David O. Russell Starring: Christian Bale, Bradley Cooper, Jennifer Lawrence, Amy Adams, Jeremy Renner.
Ok so this is a fucking great movie, but it’s probably not what you expect. The ambiguous teaser trailer gives off a kind of 70’s Oceans 11 vibe, but if you’re expecting that standard plot where the old timey con men/women are getting ready for ‘one last big job’, then someone screws up and the star detective thinks he’s got everyone pinned until the very last scene where you find out OH WOW THAT WAS THE PLAN THE WHOLE TIME(!!) and the detective is like ‘MY CAREER!’ and one of your friends is like ‘I saw that coming in like the first scene guys it was so obvious...’ and when you leave the cinema you realise you can’t remember anything significant about the plot except for the scene where that guy from that show gets stuck in an air vent and it was really tense… this is not one of those movies. While it definitely has elements of the over-done heist plot gimmick, it uses it more as a vehicle for the characters and refuses to sacrifice good writing for flashy twists. That was a good decision.
This is really an actor’s movie. While the plot is great, and thanks to its simplicity lacks a lot of the gaping holes that con/heist movies always have, it is the script and the quality of the acting that make this movie so great. The whole cast give huge, powerful performances, though Christian Bale and Jennifer Lawrence really stand out. The film captures that fast paced, decadent 70’s underworld aesthetic and memorable character driven scenes that made Boogie Nights so engaging. And, like with Boogie Nights, the plot sometimes takes a back seat to the characters and the weight of their interactions. David O. Russell created even more room for this by opting for a simpler narrative, a (for the most part) clear cut movement for the characters to explore and really flesh out within, and they do. Even the cameo characters are given meaningful expression; Louis CK has some great scenes facing off with Bradley Cooper, and over a few scenes delivers a painfully unresolved story that plays into the strange comedic tension in the film. Robert De Niro’s cameo was totally unexpected and delivers one of the tensest scenes from any movie I can remember.
As well as being fucking great, as I mentioned, this movie is also fucking hilarious. For the most part it is a serious drama with some really poignant moments, especially one scene between Bale and Jeremy Renner that should put your guts into your throat trying to hold back tears if you’ve got any feeling in you at all, but in a big way it’s a black comedy, and is extremely enjoyable.
I know I haven’t mentioned the actual plot of the film at all, and you may be like ‘ok dude that’s great, just shut up and tell me what the movie is about’, but shhh, trust me, just go see it.