Irv – Christian Bale
Richard – Bradley Cooper
Syd/Edith- Amy Adams
Carmine Polito- Jeremy Renner
Rosalyn – Jennifer Lawrence
This is not a comedy, rather it is a drama about a life-long hustler who is about to engage in the biggest con of his entire life.
The acting – super, particularly Christian Bale who adds sparkle to the screen every time he appears. He has the pizzazz, the je ne sais quois which real stars possess, that hidden talent with its inherent charisma, its tingle, its twinkle. He lights up the screen everytime he appears. You cannot help but admire this man’s talent. He makes every scene believable and magnetic.
Irv, Bale’s character, has been developing himself as a con artist from his days a child when he would “assist” his father in the window replacement business. You can guess what his role was. He grew, developed into new fields so that finally as an adult he was into art, forgery, bank certificates and financial scams, small time but very successful.
Sydney, Adam’s character, enters Irv’s life and he falls for her, hook line and sinker, even though he is a married man with a stepson whom he loves tremendously. Sydney adapts herself into a British socialite, along with the prerequisite British accent, fashion drapery, and cosmetic makeover. She had no trouble winning over as a fan and supporter based on her looks and sound, but something got lost in the translation. Adams portrayal was erratic in magnetism. At times she attracted, too often she failed to do so. I think she gave her best into the role, but somehow it didn’t seem to be enough. Sad, for in looks alone, she was a 10.
Finally, Bradley Cooper portrays an FBI agent, Richard DiMaso, who is seeking a significant bump in his career. Cooper tries too hard. He really needs to channel some of Bale’s subdued style in order to be more successful in the role he portrays in this movie. His relationship with his immediate superior, Stoddard Thorsen, played by Louis C.K., has many comedic scenes it, especially the ongoing gag about the ice fishing which never saw a clear resolution in my books. I lost the humour in that one even with its outcome. Eventually, Richard creates an immense con scheme which entails Irv conning the mayor of the Bronx, Carmine Polito (Jeremy Renner). There are so many nets being cast on the waters, it becomes a challenge to follow the plot: entrapment of congressman, revelation of political corruption, enlistment of the mob in metropolitan development schemes, marital discord and infidelity, and so much more.
One is hard pressed to keep things straight but doing so is rewarding in of itself, as one feels as if they are a part of the tangled mess. You sympathize with the mayor. You fear the Mafioso, played by Robert De Niro with an ambiguous menacing vs comedic portrayal. He is fun to watch, another talented and consummate actor.
The mayor, Polito, hopes to revitalize his city with the development of a major casino operation but the scam lying behind his hopes begs to differ with the plan. Eveything fails at the story’s end, or does it. Irv comes back with the resolution which places him into a new life with Syd and his stepson while the others from his wife to the mayor all receive their just desserts.
In all, this is a captivating movie with Bales magnificently pulling all the strings and doing it in one direction, his favour. Bales does a masterful job. In the hands of a less capable actor, the movie would have come up as a dud. Bale makes it into a fascinating tour de force.
It won’t work as family entertainment because the plot demands more than sporadic attention.
A worthwhile watch, for sure.