Don’t be conned into thinking American Hustle is Oscar-worthy

Steve McQueen’s haunting drama 12 Years a Slave has been long been tipped to have the Oscars race sewn up but now it looks like a serious rival has emerged – American Hustle.

Director David O Russell reunites with Bradley Cooper and Jennifer Lawrence again after Silver Linings Playbook and it seems this combination was too much for Academy Award voters to resist, who showered it with nominations. Ten in total.

Only Alfonso Cuarón’s jaw-dropping 3D sci-fi epic Gravity scored as many Oscar nods while 12 Years a Slave got nine.

American Hustle, which has shades of Boogie Nights, Donnie Brasco and Casino, is a witty and fun crime caper about a con man (Christian Bale) forced to co-operate with the FBI.

It has style in spades, 1970s retro cool in buckets and some truly sensational performances. Amy Adams and Lawrence, both nominated for Oscars, are outstanding; offering up complex, nuanced and moving portrayals of conflicted women.

But beneath the glorious array of splendid hairstyles, dodgy perms and toupees, there’s very little else. Certainly not enough to deserve all the awards recognition it has been racking up, most recently best motion picture – comedy or musical at the Golden Globes and best film at the New York Film Critics Circle Awards.

Were voters blinded by the sight of Adams’ breasts, so prominently on show for the entire film?

The performances are enjoyable but the plot is frustratingly slow-moving and muddled. It seems so much attention was lavished on the look of the film, that hardly any was paid to the narrative.

When the inevitable twist comes at the end, it’s wholly underwhelming, while you’ll leave the cinema with the niggling feeling that not much really happened.

If you want a funnier film, go see The Wolf of Wall Street. If you want a more gripping tale, check out 12 Years a Slave, Dallas Buyers Club, Captain Phillips or any other nominee on the Academy Award shortlist.

American Hustle is a decent film elevated by powerhouse acting. But a great film worthy of a best picture Oscar? Now that would be the ultimate con.